Being 13

Subject: Zoe Paarlberg

Nineteenth Century photographer Julia Margaret Cameron said “Growth is a spiral process, doubling back on itself, reassessing and regrouping.” Being 13 became a wavering exploration as I watched Zoe, my stepdaughter, hedging between a girl and a young lady. As one moment of childlike behavior juxtaposed itself with the look of a mature girl, I became visually aware of a transforming subject, catching glimpses of who she was becoming and whom she was leaving behind.

Most often my image making was spontaneous. A hotel room chair would spark a visual idea; a school event would trigger an opportunity. I became an observer, utilizing my skills as a photojournalist to document this unusually rich metamorphosis.

Zoe and I live together sometimes and spend longer periods of time together traveling throughout the year. As with any muse, often the demand from the photographer can be too much for the subject. I promised Zoe I would photograph her during this year of “being 13” then give her a break from being my constant subject. Always cooperative, she honored my wishes, despite sometimes finding herself less than interested in my project. She continues to collaborate with me, making images, and I hope this will continue throughout our lives.

Back to "Being 13" series