Personal statement by the photographer Ute BEHREND
"Somewhere in North America or Canada there is an Indian tribe that dresses its adolescent girls in large bearskins. They live away from the Indian village with other girls their age and are protected from the eyes of the adults and boys by wearing the skins. They are even advised to move particularly clumsily, just like a bear. In this protected atmosphere, they can develop undisturbed. They decide for themselves when to shed their fur. From then on, they belong to the community of adult Indian women. Furthermore, Indian girls of this tribe are free to decide whether they want to become warriors. Not many do, but there have been some from time to time. When I told this to a friend recently, she said she remembered hearing about this tribe before. But I actually made the story up." (Ute BEHREND, 2019)
Adolescence is the subject of the photographic volume 'Bärenmädchen' (Bear Girls) by German photographer Ute BEHREND. She tells the story of a fictional 'Indian tribe' that separates its adolescent girls and dresses them in bearskins to protect them from premature sexualization. She draws parallels to our society, in which the space for adolescent girls is constantly shrinking and many young women try to escape the stereotypes of sexualized identification shaped by society and the media.
In 2020, Ute BEHREND received the bronze German Photo Book Award in the 'Self Published' category for her book 'Bärenmädchen' (Bear Girls)!
'Bärenmädchen' (Bear Girls) is a photo volume full of poetic image compositions. In it, the bear girls move in an archetypal environment based on nature. They appear sensitive, timeless and lost. She has also photographed animals. As in fables or fairy tales, they seem to be stand-ins for human characteristics. Often far away and only very small in the picture. They don't want to be seen or touched. Just like the bear girls in this book. Many of the portraits of girls look as if she had come across them by chance. However, the locations and actresses were often carefully researched and staged. The photographer loves to capture the generally valid in the fleeting. And that is the art of making it look as if it was thrown down easily, even if it is hard work.
In the interview at the end of the book, Ute BEHREND refers to the psychologist Barbara Kerr, who in 'Smart Girls, Gifted Women' examines the commonalities of girls who later became strong women. Kerr found that all girls in the past had had time for themselves and the ability to fall in love with an idea. They also all had a 'protective shell'. None of the girls were particularly popular in their environment and most remained relatively isolated in their age group - not because they wanted to, but because they were rejected. Interestingly, it was precisely this rejection that created a space in which they could develop their uniqueness.
- HC (no dust, jacket as issued)