12 year club

by Nicole Chan

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Prior to NYU, I had spent 12 years at a small girls school on the Upper East Side in Manhattan in a class of 39 girls many of whom I’d known since I was 5.  The school sits on the corner of 92nd and Madison, between a bakery and Central Park.  Thinking about it now I’ve spent more time in that building then anywhere else. 

My time in college has taken me so far from the world that I built there and now my final year at NYU I couldn’t shake my nostalgia. In high school I was always clear about my dislike of its restraints, always fighting rules and making it clear that my future lied elsewhere with other people.  

At the beginning of this project many of my memories remain heavily reliant on classic all girls schools motifs: the rolled skirts and plaited hair, eating in cafeterias, and gossiping in the library and locker rooms. These may have been starting points, but as I roamed around the empty building it became more important for me to focus on very specific, emotional memories: the made up games we played on the playground, the hidden spots in the building where we cried or told secrets, the classrooms and teachers that frustrated or liberated us. I recreated these very specific moments by casting two girls to in some ways “play” me in these scenes.  My aim wasn’t just to recreate but to capture my perspective of someone who’s distance from these memories has formed a sense of longing and guilt towards something I used to reject.  

12 Year Club is the label that you get when you come in 1st grade rather than Kindergarten. One year from being a survivor and many years from being an adult. 

Models: Thalia Lee and Katarina Zhu

All shot on 35 mm film, Kodak 400