“The girls were rebelling. The girls were acting out. The girls had run away from home, that much was clear. They were trying on a version of themselves that the world had thus far shown them was “boy.” . . . Cowboys, sailors, pirates, hitchhikers, hobos, train hoppers, explorers, catchers in the rye, lords of the flies—you name it, all the dominion of boys. If you wanted a place in the narrative, you had to imagine yourself inside of it.”—Rebecca Bengal The North American frontier is an enduring symbol of romance, rebellion, escape, and freedom. At the same time, it’s a profoundly masculine myth—cowboys, outlaws, Beat poets. Photographer Justine Kurland reclaimed this space in her now-iconic series of images of teenage girls, taken between 1997 and 2002 on the road in the American wilderness. “I staged the girls as a standing army of teenaged runaways in resistance to patriarchal ideals,” says Kurland. She portrays the girls as fearless and free, tender and fierce. They hunt and explore, braid each other’s hair, and swim in a sun-dappled watering hole— paying no...
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