It was the dawn of rock ‘n’ roll 60 years ago, and a young photography student aimed his camera at Chicago teenagers. His name was Joseph Sterling and he wasn’t much older than his subjects.
The photos he took became his master’s thesis at Chicago’s Institute of Design. They were later published as a book called “The Adolescent Comedy.” (There is also a book released 2005 by Greybull Press:’ The age of adolescence’)
Joseph Sterling (who died 2010 at the age of 74) began photographing by age eleven, in his native Texas. Inspired by a teacher and a single photograph by Harry Callahan that he saw in a magazine, Sterling left his home state and Texas State College in 1956, transferring to Chicago and the Institute of Design. There he studied under Callahan, Aaron Siskind, and Frederick Sommer, receiving his B.S. in 1959 and then his M.S. in 1962.
Sterling’s Master’s thesis was called “The Age of Adolescence,” a heartfelt but technically rigorous photographic essay describing the hope, energy and uncertainty that defined the world of American working class teenagers – created within the aesthetic framework of pattern and design taught at the ID (and the Bauhaus before it).