About High School 1984

At lunchtime, the teens in my California suburban high school would gather outside in ‘the quad’ around the tree/bench cluster where their friend/identity group would cluster. 

 

Are you looking for the goths? It’s that tree over there. The jocks who like to chew tobacco and talk about the game? Those guys are down there adjacent to the heavy metal stoners. The closeted lesbian vollyball players? Nerds? Cholos/Cholas? Punks and weirdos? Cheerleaders? There were so many groups and sub-groups and for the most part everyone stayed in one place. 

 

There was a lot of smoking and ducking from the seagulls who would either shit on you or steal your lunch. If you were particularly unlucky they would eat your lunch and then shit it on you after. 

 

In the four years of high school, I didn’t really stay with one group - which was a bit unusual but it meant I was able to wander between the punks, the stoners, the heavy metal dudes, the volleyball players and whoever else. Partly this is because I was such an awkward hippy radical weirdo that I didn’t fit neatly into any one group, but also because I started an underground newspaper and took art and writing submissions from anyone who had something to say. This enabled me to break through the barriers of identity groupings that were so much a part of the California high school experience.

 

My teenage years were about protest. I had already gone through an intense period of satanic heavy metal drug-filled rebellion in my 12-14 ages and came out the other side as an angry anti-nuclear, anti-Reagan, anti-apartheid birkenstock-wearing hippy girl. I liked going to Berkeley and San Francisco on the weekends for protests and taking pictures.

 

In high school I was learning how to develop film and make prints in the darkroom. I was very heavily under the influence of Diane Arbus at the time and I think that’s what inspired me to bring my camera to the quad at lunch time.  I remember one day bringing a borrowed long lens that had a focus problem and that’s what set me going doing close-up portraits, even after I switched to a wider, fixed lens.

 

I’ve always loved these portraits, but I love them even more now that they’ve aged - and I’ve aged - and I’ve changed from cynical to sentimental about that time and place.

©2020 Cammie Toloui