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Powerful portraits of girls on the cusp of adolescence – BBC News

Inspired by her own memories of growing up, Carolyn Mendelsohn spent six years photographing portraits of 90 British girls from different backgrounds, all on the cusp of adolescence.
"Between the ages of 10 and 12, I recall suddenly feeling very uncomfortable in my skin, becoming self-conscious and having huge worries about the world and the future," she says.
"Although it's often called an 'awkward' age by parents, I think it is an important and beautiful time, so I chose to re-visit it with my camera and put these girls centre stage.
"I wanted to show them as they are and at the same time to empower them."
While photographing each girl, Mendelsohn asked them about their ambitions, dislikes and hopes for the future.
She soon realised that their responses provided snapshots of wider issues in the world at the time.
"Initially, many of the girls talked about their fear and worries of war, homelessness and self-image," she says.
"As the years went on, they started to talk about fear for the planet and climate change.
"The last girl I photographed talked about her fear of coronavirus, around seven weeks before the first lockdown.
"I learned to never underestimate what children of this age think and the depth of their feeling."
Here is a selection of Mendelsohn's portraits, along with the girls' responses.
"I love being adventurous, creative and drawing.
"I hate being bossed around.
"I would really love to be a doctor and I wish nobody died in the world."
"I hope that in the future, society is more open about body image, because everyone is different, and I really hope people can accept that more.
"Not everybody is like what you see in the magazines; everyone is perfect and unique in their own way.
"My ambition is to be more self-confident when I am older and to help other people be more confident about themselves.
"My dream is probably to have a decent job and two Pomeranians."
"When I am an adult, I want to be a racing car driver, a scientist and a singer.
"Also I want to get a job where I can look after and raise big cats, like lions and tigers.
"My dream is to walk like my sister so I can run with her and go where she can go.
"If I could walk, that is what I want, to go where my sister goes, so I can go in the hard bits and follow her.
"My wish is to walk."
"My ambition is to travel around the world and meet loads of new people from all different countries and cultures.
"I dream that no-one is homeless and everyone has a special place to go to."
"When I am an adult, I want to be an author and to set up a business to help children who are in foster families or in care, or those who have a disability.
"I have craniosynostosis; when I was a baby, the bones in my head had already fused together.
"When I was six months old I had to have an operation, then another one when I was one.
"My wish is to visit the rainforest – I imagine it to be tropical and I would love the smell."
"I would like to be a zoo-keeper or be a vet or a writer when I am older.
"I hope that we stop destroying the world.
"We have got to stop cutting down trees, as well to make homes and to stay warm.
"I am scared that the sea level is rising and also I worry about the coronavirus."
"My hopes for the future are for all people to have a roof over their head, and have family or people who they can be with and feel loved and be cared for.
"I wish to be happy forever, to always be loved and to grow up to have a really good life.
"I am the oldest of my friends, but I am one of the smallest.
"It doesn't actually matter that much, though.
"Just because you are small doesn't mean to say you can't go on to great things."
"My dream is to become a good teacher so I can help children overcome their difficulties and become great people like doctors and prime ministers."
"I love spending time with my family because they are really funny.
"My advice to girls my age going to secondary school is to be yourself and don't let other people take over your life, because it can make your life miserable.
"Stick up for yourself and stick up for people who others are being mean to."
"I love to dance and I love acting because you get to express how you feel; I feel free.
"I am not afraid to say what I have to say, I am not a shy person.
"My dream is to have a big house, a loving family and loads of pets – mostly dogs.
"I wish that there was no evil in the world and we were all nice to everyone, and everyone had a voice in the world, and no-one would be put down or anything."
Being Inbetween is an Impressions Gallery touring exhibition and will be on display in Bradford, West Yorkshire, from 18 May until 24 July 2021.
A book of Carolyn Mendelsohn's photography is published by Bluecoat Press.
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