Teaching high school in suburban Long Island from 1972-1999 has given photographer

Joseph Szabo a front row seat on the fascinating rites and rituals in the life of the

American teenager. “My general rule was no drugs and no sex but right on with rock ʻnʼ

roll,” says Szabo. Necking, smoking, hanging out and preening for the camera, the

insolent, vulnerable, aggressive, lonely kids captured in Szaboʼs sexy, intimate black

and white series Jones Beach testify to the complex, often contradictory nature of that

time of life. Szabo captures the bravado, but also the haunting vulnerability and

insecurity of teenagers. Photographing the students in their bedrooms, at school

dances, in the classroom or cruising in their cars was initially a way for Szabo to get to

know his unruly high school photography students. “I became a better teacher because I

was tuned into their lives” says Szabo. By turning the lens on his students he captured

their attention and won worldwide recognition from fans including Sofia Coppola (who

used his images as an important visual reference in her 1999 debut film The Virgin

Suicides), and the adoration of the fashion crowd including Juergen Teller, Terry

Richardson and Bruce Weber. Early on Szabo took the advice of famed photojournalist

Cornell Capa that “you have to like people and you have to let them know you like

them.” Szaboʼs exceptional tenderness in penetrating other worlds and capturing the

sublime in the seemingly ordinary has extended to his other projects documenting the

crowds at one of the busiest beaches in the world, Long Islandʼs Jones Beach and a

project documenting Long Islandʼs terminally ill.