Joseph Szabo’s subject is adolescence – the all too familiar, twilight time of life between childhood and young adulthood. For 25 years Szabo truthfully documented his teenage students at Malverne High School, Long Island. Taken in the seventies and eighties, these photographs represent a remarkable evocation of that period and yet there remains something timeless and compelling about Szabo’s portrait of the almost grown.
The backdrops for Szabo’s photographs are hallways, classrooms, and car parks of High School. Some of his subjects are sweetly self-conscious whilst others are self-assured beyond their years. Szabo captures the pathological significance of clothes, the stylistic necessity of cigarettes, the heavy mascara, the convertibles, the longing, the blossoming sexuality , the confusion and the time spent just doing nothing. Szabo has no agenda and the fine line between intimacy and exploitation that other photographers sometimes approach is simply not in evidence.
Szabo’s first book, Almost Grown, published in 1978, was acclaimed by the American Library association. The book faded somewhat into obscurity until it became a cult classic amongst a generation of young British and American fashion photographers. His second book, Teenage published in 2003 is a poignant chronicle of Szabo’s work spanning two decades.
Joseph Szabo was born in Toledo, Ohio in 1944. He studied photography at the Pratt Institute where he received his MFA. He taught photography at Malverne High School in Long Island, New York from 1972 to 1999 and he continues to teach at the International Centre of Photography. Joseph Szabo is the recipient of a National Endowment for the Visual Arts Fellowship and his work resides in the permanent collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Yale University, The International Centre of Photography and the Bibliotheque National in Paris, amongst others. He currently lives in Amityville, New York with his wife Nancy and Siberian Husky, Gala.