In our memories, the summer holidays of our youth often stretch out far longer than the allotted six weeks before term inevitably starts again. The sun never quite sets and there’s always more fun to be had in that apparently infinite time-off, and it’s in this heady space that photography duo Lola & Pani AKA Lola Paprocka and Pani Paul’s most recent series exists.
Taken over a period of five to six weeks, the series titled Northern Rivers documents a group of teenage boys as they gallivant around their eponymous home. A region in Australia’s New South Wales, Northern Rivers is known for its beautiful scenery of Pacific beaches, valleys and rivers which provide the backdrop to Lola and Pani’s serene portrait of adolescence.
The duo visits the area – where Pani grew up – almost every January to escape the British winter and, on each visit, focuses on making personal work, “taking advantage of the summer light and looking for interesting subjects and areas to photograph,” they explain. On a past trip, Pani photographed this same group, the so-called Our Strong Brotherhood, who were swimming at a bridge where Pani used to hang out during his youth. “He just started chatting to them and took few pictures,” they recall, “They were very open to having their picture taken and seemed to enjoy being in front of the camera.”
Having stayed in touch, when Lola and Pani returned to Australia they visited the homes of Our Strong Brotherhood, “they showed us around, invited some of their friends and we just hung out and spent the day together,” the duo explains. With intimate, light-dappled moments presented alongside snapshots of typical teenage antics, the series is a well-rounded panorama capturing an altogether familiar, yet idiosyncratic, experience. “They are a pretty typical group of teenage men,” Lola and Pani tell It’s Nice That, “a lot of banter between them but you can tell they are a tight-knit group and have a sincere appreciation for each other.”
It’s this combination of both an individual and collective experience which truly makes Northern Rivers, which was recently published as a book, resonate. Although merely a documentation of one group of friends during one summer, it speaks to the fond recollections than many of us hold dear. “For us, it’s a very nostalgic project,” the duo adds, “but we hope it will inspire some fond memories that the audience might be able to relate to.”
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