Barely Exposed Interview
Transitioning from childhood to adulthood is a difficult journey for both parent and child. Every teen is different, and many parents just don't know how to help them make that journey easier.
As photographer and author of Barely Exposed, a book that focuses on the passage from youth to adulthood of 17-21 year-olds, Latana knows a thing or two about dealing with adolescents. Her book provides a way for young people to express themselves; her tips for parents, stemming also from her own experience as a mother, provides a way for parents to better understand the transition.
Latana's tips for parents include:
Listening to your child
Supporting their goals and fears
Empowering them to make decisions
Trusting their choices
Being a role model
Believing in them
For 20 years, Latana has traveled, studied and exhibited her work internationally in Switzerland, Paris, New York, Los Angeles, the Pacific Rim and more. She began her career in fashion photography in New York and appeared in magazines such as Harper's, Vogue and Details and expanded her craft by capturing images in India, Southeast Asia, China, Armenia, Siberia and Africa. Barely Exposed is Latana's third book.
Interview with Latana
Question: What inspired you to write this book?
Latana: As a mother of a child that was soon approaching the passage from adolescence to adulthood, I wanted to capture that moment in his life with all the questions and fears that the future would entail for him and also for me, as a parent. It prompted a project that went from asking his friends "How they saw their world?" into a much larger body of work that included youth from different parts of the world. The choices of the participants were random. They were from different social, economic, and cultural backgrounds. I realized that this germ of on an idea had turned into a vehicle for these young people to express themselves or "to name and locate him - or herself in the world," and a way for us adults to better comprehend that passage.
Question: Why is it so important to empower teenagers to make their own decisions?
Latana: As Alison Cook-Sather so eloquently put it in the introduction to my book:
"As we have found in the realm of education, if we pay attention to these expressions, (what youth has to say regarding their experiences and their futures) value and take them seriously, we can work with young people to build hope rather than reinforce hopelessness, rouse inspiration and combat despair, build confidence and reduce disabling uncertainty.
Question: Can you talk about how a parent can be a role model for their children?
Latana: Children's greatest role models are their parents. That being said, once you have defined the rules of which you live by then we should impart them by "practicing what we preach'. If you show them self- respect and respect for others, patience, generosity, kindness, discipline and all the other positive attributes...they learn by seeing.
As Karen Stephens writes in her article on "Parents are Powerful Role Models for Children"
"What kids see and believe, they become. Each and every day, parents build a legacy for kids to inherit. Choose to be a parent who role models family traits worth believing in and worth building upon. After all, what goes around, comes around . . . unceasingly from one generation to the next."
On a personal note, my children have been my greatest champions and supporters for any event or idea that I have developed for organisations in need or for the Phukthar Monastery that I adopted five years ago in the Himalayas. I feel that my greatest accomplishment as a role model was helping develop the sensitivity and generosity of heart that they have for the less fortunate.
Question: How can parents deal with trusting their children's choices, even when they don't believe they are necessarily correct?
Latana: As parents, our job begins the minute we bear our children. From the beginning, we should be sharing our values of honesty, reliability and responsibility. This happens through our monitoring of their lives and instilling discipline when necessary. How is this done? It is done through communication. Keeping the conversation going, especially through the adolescent years when the child is trying to find him or herself and needs support and love and not necessarily... judgment. It is not easy to see choices made that do not necessarily comply with our wishes but if you do not allow the child to make their own choices, how will they develop the self-esteem necessary to make that transition from youth to adult. As parents, we are not perfect and some of our child's decisions will not be perfect but it is essential to keep our hearts and minds open and give support and advice when warranted.
Be a safety net for your child.
Question: What research went into this book?
Latana: Alison Cook-SatherProfessor of Education and Coordinator of Bryn Mawr's Teaching and Learning Initiative and The Andrew W. Mellon Teaching and Learning Institute, has written extensively on student voices; particularly in teacher education and professional development. She and other advocates like Michael Fielding, Jean Rudduck and Julia Flutter whom are able to achieve with words what I try to accomplish with my images. "changing the images of youth, relationships between young people and adults, and the place of youth in conversations about their experiences and their futures." Alison Cook-Sather
Interviewing the 60 young adults from various parts of the globe who gave me their impressions on "How they saw their world?" was the best research for my book. Their responses were spontaneous and, I believe, truthful and came from the heart. Their voices and feelings come through in their responses and that is more important than what we as adults can surmise. In addition, I am a parent and a mother who has raised two children...and isn't experience the best teacher?
Interview by Brooke Hunter