For Adolescent Wonderland, Naomi Hobson has turned her camera lens on the youth of Coen, a tiny town on the Cape York Peninsula in Far North Queensland. This loving, celebratory gaze, first shown for Tarnanthi 2021 and now touring , explores the colourful way of life for young people in a remote community: their interests, their relationships, their challenges and their joys.
“I wanted to give a voice to my young people so that the world can see them: their energy, vibrancy and sense of humour,” says Hobson, a southern Kaantju/Umpila photographer based in Coen, a town of 360 people. “They are the light of our community and even though they live remotely, they’re totally engaged in this new world with their style—their individuality is ever-present, as is their Indigenous heritage. It’s such a unique lifestyle.”
The photos have an immersive quality to them. The viewer not only feels the energy of the day-to-day habits and recreation activities of Hobson’s subjects, but one also senses the scorching climate and the region’s rugged terrain. And all this makes for a striking juxtaposition with Lewis Carroll, whose celebrated children’s fable Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland proved inspiring for Hobson, and gave the show its name.
“Alice’s adventures opened up my imagination and creativity,” says Hobson. “I’ve played with the title in a way to reflect young people’s imagination, to echo their life of colour and exploration. When I started photographing them, I saw that their life really was a wonderland and that there’s a large group of young people on a journey in search of themselves. Maybe the photographs are helping them to develop their own identity and be comfortable in it.
“I always felt the need to highlight the young people in my community, because their stories are always misrepresented.”
This article was originally published in the March/April 2022 print edition of Art Guide Australia.