The Joseph Szabo Project is at once the story of an artist–teacher, and a meditation on the power of the photographic image. In the 1970s, photographer Joseph Szabo became frustrated that many of his Long Island high school students lacked any interest in learning. To try and close the gap, he began photographing them. The images were published in two books that became classics for their depiction of adolescence, “Almost Grown” and “Teenage.” They revealed Szabo to be a trusted confidant, a sympathetic observer, transforming his form of expression into a means of connection.
Drawn from thousands of stunning never before seen prints and classic published work, this visually driven documentary immerses you in a cinematic world created solely by the juxtaposition of Szabo’s poignant photographs. As each photograph connects to the other, we witness Szabo capture the essential truths of teenage life, creating an engaging story from which none existed. He creates his art through his lens by simply “paying attention to what’s around us.” The Joseph Szabo Project illuminates these ideals and more in what could be called a time capsule, an alternative yearbook, filled with experiences that will resonate with anyone who has passed through the doors of high school.
Cameron Crowe put it best in the foreword to “Teenage,” when he wrote that Szabo’s photographs are indelible reminders that “Nothing lasts forever, except high school.”