Under Twelve Under Twenty is exhibited at Stills Gallery, 36 Gosbell Street, Paddington, Sydney, Australia from 29 August to 6 October, 2012.
Ella Dreyfus revisits her acclaimed series of portraits of young boys, Under Twelves, with a new series Under Twelve Under Twenty. She follows the same group of boys, from her son's soccer team, seven years later, after they have finished high school to document their transformation into young men. This extraordinary collection of black and white double portraits affirms the dignity of male beauty, portraying and makes a unique contribution to photographic portraiture in Australia.
The tender and beautifully realised photographs portray the passage of time by depicting male youths firstly, as they hover on the cusp of childhood and now by their transformation into adulthood. There is a traversing both of the feminine and masculine worlds at play in these portraits. Many of Dreyfus' photographs invite us to contemplate a subject matter that elicits both a sense of pleasure and discomfort and these portraits do just that. "Breaking taboos is something Dreyfus has done for years. The photos do unquestionably show the sensual beauty of the boys" wrote Catherine Keenan in the Sydney Morning Herald in 2005.
Under Twelve Under Twenty celebrates the twentieth anniversary of Dreyfus' ground-breaking exhibition Pregnancy Series, shown at Stills Gallery in 1992. These photographs were widely published and she became well-known for works that engaged with representations of the body, embracing the ordinary, and striking a rich source of humanity, compassion and emotional resonance. The Pregnancy Series was a powerfully erotic study of women in the latter stages of their pregnancies, and was published as The Body Pregnant (McPhee Gribble/Penguin, 1993). The exhibition resulted in widespread community discussions about women and body image as Diane Losche wrote in Photofile magazine, "Dreyfus' work is a tour de force in that it brilliantly circulates around the terrain of the beautiful and the ugly".
Dreyfus' exhibitions have made significant contributions to the field of Photography and she is represented in public museums and many private collections. Her work has been critiqued and cited by international art historians such as Prof. Griselda Pollock in the UK and writers Naomi Wolf and Kim Chernin in the USA. The art critic for the Sydney Morning Herald, Sebastian Smee, recognized her contribution to the field saying, "one of Australia's most respected photographers, Ella Dreyfus, is known for her unflinching yet deeply sympathetic portraits of bodies that don't usually get exposed".
This series evokes the work of photographers who also document the pasage of time in their friends and families. Artist such as Sue Ford, with her Time Portraits, Nicholas Nixon and The Brown Sisters and Michael Apted's 7-Up documentary films. Ella Dreyfus' latest photographic portraits represent a powerful and evocative human narrative. She intends to continue to photograph the same group of men every seven years, with their ongoing consent.
This portrait series represents a powerful and evocative human narrative.
Dreyfus was the winner of the inaugural Olive Cotton Award for Photographic Portraiture in 2005, with her portrait The Lads: Nads and Dax and has been a finalist in many photographic awards including the Head On Photographic Portrait Award; the Josephine Ulrick and Win Schubert Photography Award, the Australian Portrait Photographic Prize and the William and Winifred Bowness Photographic Award. Her other solo photographic exhibitions at Stills Gallery were The Body Pregnant, Age and Consent, Transman and Scumbag. Selected works from Transman will be exhibited in The Art of Hair at Musee du quai Branly in Paris in 2013.