For years, Jennifer Loeber’s husband, a film critic, had returned from the Cannes Film Festival with stories about teenagers who would wait outside the Grand Théâtre Lumière.
Loeber was intrigued when she discovered they weren’t there waiting to catch a glimpse of a celebrity but instead were trying to secure tickets to one of the film premieres.
“That was fascinating to me, and not something I assumed teens navigating the contemporary media landscape would be interested in at all,” she wrote via email.
In 2014, Loeber’s husband texted her images of the groups of teens, dressed in evening wear, who were hanging around, hoping to get into the films. The texts made the decision for her: In 2015, she went to the festival and created a series about the young people titled “Pleasures of the Uninvited.” A lot of Loeber’s work is about identity and self-representation, something she feels is present in this series that speaks to that awkward space between adolescence and adulthood.
“For me, these kids show the essence of adolescence with their mix of studied bravado and vulnerability,” she wrote via email. “They are caught between the rituals and the politics of the adult world, and the awkward discomfort and theatrics of the teenage years. The ill-fitting tuxedos and girlish eveningwear are mimicry of their future selves, but no adult has full days on end to wait for movie tickets. It’s a moment in their lives that will never again be reproduced.”
Loeber initially thought she would approach the work as a portrait project, photographing the teenagers while they waited. But she felt the shots were performative and flat, so she decided to hang out with them all day long—for two weeks.
“I was a de-facto member of the group,” she wrote. “Not many asked what I was doing or why I was interested in photographing them, but very few prevented me from making their portraits.”
Loeber said most journalists and insiders are very much aware of the teenagers’ presence, and from what she observed, many of them had a pretty high success rate of securing tickets. Since black-tie clothing is mandatory at the premieres, they dress accordingly.
The teens came from all over the world, and although some arrived through school trips or family vacations, “plenty had traveled on their own with adventure and cinema on their minds,” Loeber said.
What is remarkable about the work is how rare electronic devices appear in the images. Although Loeber said she hadn’t considered that while taking the photographs, she thought their creativity when making signs asking for tickets was interesting.
“They could have just as easily held up their phones or iPads as illuminated beacons, but I never once saw that happen,” she wrote. “Their signs ran the gamut from simple titles followed by “s’il vous plait” to interpretative drawings, Shakespearean quotes, and offers of kisses. Even though they are very much a part of the wired generation, I suspect that they understood how their personalized, handwritten efforts would potentially garner favor faster. And it seemed to work!”