Left: Stye, London. Right: Foil Face, London.

photographs of the last year before teenagehood

Photographer Hollie Fernando spent a year photographing her 12-year-old brother.

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Jul 6 2018, 9:16am

Left: Stye, London. Right: Foil Face, London.

Twelve is paradoxical age. Everything and nothing matters. You are totally capable of going to Starbucks to get high on caffeine and shoot spit wads through plastic straws, but still want mum to kiss you night night. Some of your mates are stealing cigs and snogging on park benches, others are making fart noises with their armpits. It is weird and messy and confusing and exhilarating, and it’s the subject of Hollie Fernando’s debut solo exhibition.

Saved Pennies, London.

The London-based photographer spent a year photographing her brother in all his preteen glory: sporting bruised biceps, pulling slingshots, slumped over the dining table after being banned from X-Box. “It kind of just happened,” Hollie says of the project. She started taking photos of her family on holiday with a zine in mind, but her usual muse -- her little sister -- wasn’t around. So she turned her lens to Max. “Throughout those two weeks I saw him in a completely new light,” Hollie says. “He was in that delicate limbo balanced between being a child and a young adult and I just found it fascinating, and wanted to shoot every moment.”

Birthday Beats, London.

Hollie often hones in on the ephemeral nature of youth. She’s shot community horse riding centres in Brixton, lovers at a festival, nudes at home. She’s captured a slew of fresh young musicians -- Sunflower Bean, Wolf Alice, Dreamwife. Whoever she’s shooting, they all radiate a sense of angelic naivety, of innocent bliss -- something Hollie attributes to her love of pre-Raphaelite paintings: “I’m obsessed.”

"We can never have it back, so I think we’re interested in others going through this stage to try and live it again somehow.”

In the same way that Hollie is preoccupied with cherubs and flowing hair, society is consumed with the idea of youth. “Because it’s completely unattainable,” she explains. It’s that age-old cliche your nan always trots out at Christmas dinner, “Youth is wasted on the young!” We look back at those years as free and euphoric, even if at the time it was terrifying, boring. “But we can never have it back, so I think we’re interested in others going through this stage to try and live it again somehow.”

8,28pm, London.

Which is why, ultimately, Hollie found that she learnt just as much about herself through the project as she did about her brother. “About three quarters of the way through, I began to realise that 12 was as much about myself as it was about Max. Sometimes I find myself doubting the decisions I’ve made; not knowing whether I have wasted my early 20s, if I’m good enough at my job to make a living or if I should give up and do something more financially secure.” All these paths lead back to the same place: “this deep aching nostalgia for my own childhood,” she says. “I desperately wish I could be 12 again.”

12 is showing at Doomed gallery in Dalston this weekend from 7-8 July. There will be around 100 photos on show, a limited edition book on sale and a projection room of old home videos playing.

Slingshot, Joshua Tree.
13th Party Jump, London.
13, London.