Joshua Montreal’s Bright Young Things
JOSHUA MONTREAL Marian and Cameron 2015 4x5 large format film photograph
Auckland-based photographer Joshua Montreal’s Bright Young Things series positions the personal as public, and the public as subtly, but inherently, political. In a collection of works documenting pairings of people within the artist’s own life, Montreal’s large format photographs consider human intimate connection within a generation defined by both the significant privilege and the uncertain outcome of its future.
The title of the series imbues the work with the satirical, sardonic nature of the book Vile Bodies by Evelyn Waugh, whose work fictionalised the history of the Bright Young Things, a group of London socialites active throughout the 1920s. Drawing from a narrative of young, ostentatious wealth, Montreal’s deadpan flatness questions the narrative of the contemporary young adult. Are they the next generation of success, or are they living a life bookended by war and uncertainty, but buoyant with freedom and luxury, as were those characters of Waugh?
Generationally defined as a group progressive in its ideology, with access to a historically unprecedented freedom to love, to define one’s own family, to access education and with significant cultural capital, the Millennial generation shares similar characteristics with the English novelist’s Bright Young Things. Instead of the threat of German invasion, however, stands the looming spectre of late capitalism, the threat of economic depression, student debt, and the global conservative shift.
Framing these pairs within domestic environments devoid of much personal content, Montreal’s images are frozen in place like Dutch paintings for the selfie generation. The indifference of the work questions viewers as to their perception of these pairings. What is the relationship between the two, and furthermore, what is their relationship with the photographer? Have they been coerced into this environment to play the role of the photographed object? Or is their subjecthood the object itself? Inherent within the staging and placement of each couple is some form of bond, be it sexual, familial or platonic in nature. A hand placed on a thigh, back-to-back support, intimate yet staged for the viewer to analyse and dissect. Frozen subjects become objects themselves, props to be scrutinised as representatives of the New Youth.
Imbued with the ennui of the new lost generation, Bright Young Things is resigned to a level of cynicism but sentimental in its solidarity. As the world rolls forward uncertain in its direction, unity, in the face of insecurity, will be what defines these young people and the generation they represent.
JOSHUA MONTREAL Phoebe and Hannah 2015 4x5 large format film photograph
JOSHUA MONTREAL Darren and Ross 2015 4x5 large format film photograph
JOSHUA MONTREAL Euan and Roosje 2015 4x5 large format film photograph
JOSHUA MONTREAL Misong and Sarah 2015 4x5 large format film photograph
JOSHUA MONTREAL Albert and Julian 2015 4x5 large format film photograph
JOSHUA MONTREAL Kristina and George 2015 4x5 large format film photograph