Video Feature: The Agony and Ecstasy of High School Revisited

If you either loved or hated the end of high school — sweet freedom in sight, but real adulthood still oh-so far away — then you’ll feel right at home watching “Coming of Age,” a moving video from photographer and UW Communication Leadership program graduate student, Kaitlin McKinnon.

“I wanted to pick a topic that people could relate to on a very personal level. The adolescence and “coming of age” theme is universal — we all have memories and people who pop into our head when we think of that time in our lives,” McKinnon said via email of “Coming of Age.” Originally created as a project for the Comm Lead program’s Visual Culture class in August, the video is comprised of six photo vignettes with teenagers reflecting on their time in high school, and asking big questions about the next phase of their lives.

McKinnon’s gorgeous photography captures moments of friendship and excitement alongside intimate confessions, which are quoted in a style that brings to mind the best of Brandon Stanton’s Humans of New York, of which McKinnon is definitely a fan. “The way Stanton couples his photos with a memorable quote gives his images so much volume. He captures people in their essence,” she said.

A still from "Coming of Age" by Kaitlin McKinnon

A still from “Coming of Age” by Kaitlin McKinnon

Working with so many busy high school students in a short period of time proved challenging, with McKinnon frequently springing into action on little more than an hour’s notice before interviewing and photographing her subjects. “We would go to their favorite hang-out spot or their room; wherever they felt most comfortable. Most of the people I photographed were very open to sharing their experiences and opinions about high school and growing up in general,” McKinnon said. The process unearthed a range of raw feeling from her subjects, from the relief that comes from no longer worrying about impressing others, to fresh tears after looking back at a particularly difficult school year.

Fascinated by cameras since childhood, McKinnon continues to explore her passion for photography alongside her graduate studies and her job as a Post-Producer for Microsoft’s Channel 9. For more on Kaitlin McKinnon, check out her page here, or find @kaitlinmckinnon on Twitter.

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