Girl Pictures imagine and portray teenage girls as rebellious runaways seeking freedom in the American landscape. 

Photography: Justine Kurland
Text: Ligia Poplawska
Courtesy: Aperture

Justine Kurland’s Girl Pictures capture the spirit of youth, fearlessness and freedom found within teenage girls, who the artist met on the road through North America. Taken between 1997 and 2002 the photographs speak of a need for community and togetherness between the girls, as well as rebellion, escape, and resistance to patriarchal ideals. For them, escaping the small industrial towns they came from was a way to find freedom and break with the social constraints that kept them there.

Oscillating between fact and fiction, Kurland’s staged pictures are in fact a recording of vulnerable moments of exploration, taking risks and adventure. Being inspired by The Catcher in the Rye (Holden Caulfield), Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (Mark Twain) and girl rock or punk bands, the photographer wanted to tell a story of someone who wished to rebel against the roles that were available to women at the time. Although the symbols of escape, rebellion and freedom are profoundly masculine – connoting with the American frontier or cowboy – Kurland’s images of teenage runaways represent a new kind of American dream – one where girls run the world.