Youth Services' HIGHLOW Project at the Latchis
Ned Castle partnered with twelve youth living in difficult circumstances across Vermont to re-enact high and low moments from their lives. The resulting large-scale photographs depict elaborate re-creations of these situations and are the product of hundreds of hours of collaboration between photographer and youth -- yielding two photographs each, along with audio narration by the participants, that give depth and meaning to the visual content offered through these images.
The concept and title for the show mirrors the approach used by social services agencies at the beginning of a group meeting, according to Castle. "It is common practice for these young people and youth workers to share their 'high' and 'low' moments of the day or the week at the beginning of a group session," he explained.
"Everyone is given the opportunity to speak, sharing the experiences that they've been through with the other members of their group," Castle said. "I built on this concept by asking these young Vermonters to share their high and low moments. Their openness provides a revealing look at the range of experiences that have shaped their lives."
In what is all too rare in photography, these subjects assume ultimate conceptual and creative control over the creation and selection of their materials from start to finish -- and beyond.
While the exhibition still bears the imprint of the photographer, its resonance comes from the participants' willingness to share such personal moments.
Few of us are aware that there are thousands of homeless and runaway youth right here in Vermont. Each year, nearly one thousand young people are lucky enough to access the help that can make the difference between living on the street and working toward independent, productive, healthy lives.
These youth take charge of their lives -- and their future -- by working with a local member agency of the Vermont Coalition of Runaway and Homeless Youth Programs (VCRHYP), such as Youth Services in Windham County, who is hosting the show in Southeastern Vermont for the month of June.
"Many area youth are couch-surfing, living in places unfit for human habitation, or in unstable or unhealthy situations -- not because of something they did themselves but because of circumstances beyond their control," according to Allyson Villars, Executive Director of Youth Services, which serves each year more than fifty youth between the ages of sixteen and twenty-one who are homeless or at risk of homelessness.
Now celebrating its 38th anniversary, Youth Services has been working to address the issue of homelessness among the youth population for the past two decades, as the state as a whole has one of the highest rates of homelessness in New England.
"These are our future citizens. They will be our neighbors, employers and employees, and the parents of our childrens' play- and schoolmates in Windham County. They need assistance now so that they can ultimately become productive, engaged, and full-fledged partners in helping our community thrive," explained Villars. "With the guidance and support of one of our case managers, these youth develop a roadmap for taking charge of their future, and gain a partner for the journey," she said.
Copyright 2010, Gallery Walk, Brattleboro, Vermont