All of Michelle Sank’s work polarises around portraiture and highlights the notion of developing adulthood within society. Portraying people in specific places, with the resulting images seeming simultaneously ordinary, yet compulsive.
Sank's photographs explore the nature of impending adulthood against a backdrop of youth-obsessed society. Young people working out who they are and where they might belong - often caught in circumstances wherein economic options are limited.
Sank clearly chooses not to focus these images on the potential sensationalism of her subjects' difficult pasts, but is fascinated with the physical beauty of their youth, this is often framed by tranquil surroundings and achieves a sense of hope.
It may seem at first glance that Sank's images could be simply a random selection of sitters that just have ‘growing up’ in common. However, through sensitive interaction with her subjects Sank succeeds in making quiet but distinctive comment on the status, perception and representation of young people in contemporary society.
On occasion she has encountered her subjects by chance, living largely in disadvantaged social and economic conditions; from kids who are Young Carers of family members, to juvenile ex-offenders on a rehabilitation programme in the UK, to young people to whom body image is absolutely everything.
Sank highlights their journey from childhood to adulthood, adolescence as a contradiction and volatility. The beautiful results are always compelling and gently intimate, but never tinged with sensationalism or sentimentality.
Sank’s work offers a critical view of Western society’s influence on young people. By capturing the subtleties of her subjects' stance, appearance and interaction with their peers, Sank creates a universal portrait of Western adolescence as a whole.