Led by London based photographer Ester Keate, Debutantes of Lewisham is a photographic project that recalls and inverts a tradition which seemingly refuses to die. Whilst the abolishing of presentation of debutantes to the Royal Court by Queen Elizabeth II has rendered these ceremonies as such somewhat irrelevant in the UK, the tradition and, more importantly, the reasons behind it carry on. If wealth is not always a factor, lineage plays a great role in presenting debutantes, for instance in British publications such as Country Life. In the spheres of politics or banking, a "good old name" still ensures access and opportunity, a symbol of how class and heritage are decidedly ingrained in our culture.

With this photographic series, Keate challenges the limited concept behind presenting debutantes and announcing engagements, relics of times when lineage and fortune defined status. These photographs shift focus on personal accomplishments, talent and plans for the future of bright and beautiful young women of Lewisham, a highly diverse and challenged borough of London. These young women use their own voices to present themselves, announce their interests and assert their desires. Daughters and granddaughters, sisters and friends – they have already made their debut in the world of the brave and the strong.

Miss Harriet Hemsley Harriet, aged 19, daughter of Debbie and David Hemsley, a retired diamond appraiser, and a market trader of Lee Green. Harriet has finished her first year at University of Greenwich, studying Photography. She recently exhibited a photographic project in Bethnal Green, exploring frozen flowers as still life, fascinated by the preservation and documentation of decaying material. Harriet has become Head Cadet for the Volunteer Police Cadets in the Borough of Lewisham, where she has been volunteering for the past five years. She aspires to be a professional photographer, exhibiting worldwide.  

Miss Harriet Hemsley

Harriet, aged 19, daughter of Debbie and David Hemsley, a retired diamond appraiser, and a market trader of Lee Green. Harriet has finished her first year at University of Greenwich, studying Photography. She recently exhibited a photographic project in Bethnal Green, exploring frozen flowers as still life, fascinated by the preservation and documentation of decaying material. Harriet has become Head Cadet for the Volunteer Police Cadets in the Borough of Lewisham, where she has been volunteering for the past five years. She aspires to be a professional photographer, exhibiting worldwide.

 

Miss Tiffany Thomas Tiffany, aged 18, middle daughter of three to parents Yvonne and Tyrone Thomas, a criminal lawyer, and a qualified surveyor of Nunhead. Tiffany is studying Media, Sociology, and Religion at Tower Hamlets College. She is currently interested in the people of Peckham and aims to produce a documentary about the residents who have overcome the crime, deviance, and negative stereotypes of the area. She aspires to produce a reality TV show in Jamaica, highlighting the contrast between the upper and lower social classes, demonstrated specifically through the lives of children.  

Miss Tiffany Thomas

Tiffany, aged 18, middle daughter of three to parents Yvonne and Tyrone Thomas, a criminal lawyer, and a qualified surveyor of Nunhead. Tiffany is studying Media, Sociology, and Religion at Tower Hamlets College. She is currently interested in the people of Peckham and aims to produce a documentary about the residents who have overcome the crime, deviance, and negative stereotypes of the area. She aspires to produce a reality TV show in Jamaica, highlighting the contrast between the upper and lower social classes, demonstrated specifically through the lives of children.

 

Miss Molly Hankinson Molly, aged 20, eldest daughter of two to parents Kathi and John Hankinson, a retired French translator for Eurotunnel, and a veterinarian of Ladywell. Molly is a second-year Fine Art student at the Glasgow School of Art with a focus on Painting and Printmaking. Her past work dealt with anti-gentrification in Lewisham, and she now aims to explore the selfie within the context of fine art. Molly and her 125 classmates organised an independent exhibition called 25% Extra. The show was largely a comment on the lack of funding and support for students, with the hope of fostering collaboration and discussion in the school.  

Miss Molly Hankinson

Molly, aged 20, eldest daughter of two to parents Kathi and John Hankinson, a retired French translator for Eurotunnel, and a veterinarian of Ladywell. Molly is a second-year Fine Art student at the Glasgow School of Art with a focus on Painting and Printmaking. Her past work dealt with anti-gentrification in Lewisham, and she now aims to explore the selfie within the context of fine art. Molly and her 125 classmates organised an independent exhibition called 25% Extra. The show was largely a comment on the lack of funding and support for students, with the hope of fostering collaboration and discussion in the school.

 

Miss Pascale Morrison Derbyshire Pascale, aged 25, daughter of three to Jenny Morrison and Alan Derbyshire, a solicitor, and an art restorer of Crystal Palace. Pascale trained as an actor at the Oxford School of Drama, where she developed a passion for clowning. She works with different local authorities as a community engagement officer, and has been part of a show called That’s Not Funny, which responds to mental illness through comedy. The clown is seen as a “super ego” bringing forth and exaggerating isolated parts of the personality. Pascale is drawn to puppetry and made her first puppet from bits of rubbish.  

Miss Pascale Morrison Derbyshire

Pascale, aged 25, daughter of three to Jenny Morrison and Alan Derbyshire, a solicitor, and an art restorer of Crystal Palace. Pascale trained as an actor at the Oxford School of Drama, where she developed a passion for clowning. She works with different local authorities as a community engagement officer, and has been part of a show called That’s Not Funny, which responds to mental illness through comedy. The clown is seen as a “super ego” bringing forth and exaggerating isolated parts of the personality. Pascale is drawn to puppetry and made her first puppet from bits of rubbish.

 

Miss Tutku Barbaros Tutku, aged 26, eldest daughter of two to parents Rahme and Mehmet Barbaros, the owner of Barbaros Hair Salon, and a driver of an ice cream truck, living in Forest Hill. Tutku studied Drama at the University of Sussex and has since become a writer, producer, and performer of Plunge Theatre Group. The show is a surreal and grotesque exploration of feminist issues and eating disorders, portrayed by three women in search for bodily perfection. By using their own bodies and experiences, the performers spread awareness and initiate a discourse on topics including the damaging effects of beauty standards.  

Miss Tutku Barbaros

Tutku, aged 26, eldest daughter of two to parents Rahme and Mehmet Barbaros, the owner of Barbaros Hair Salon, and a driver of an ice cream truck, living in Forest Hill. Tutku studied Drama at the University of Sussex and has since become a writer, producer, and performer of Plunge Theatre Group. The show is a surreal and grotesque exploration of feminist issues and eating disorders, portrayed by three women in search for bodily perfection. By using their own bodies and experiences, the performers spread awareness and initiate a discourse on topics including the damaging effects of beauty standards.

 

Miss Rose Rowson Rose, aged 26, daughter of Anna Clarke and Martin Rowson, a retired barrister, and a political cartoonist, living in Ladywell. Rose received her Masters in Media Studies from the Amsterdam University of the Arts, and wrote her thesis on magical writing practices and contemporary digital culture. She is working on having her research published and applying for a PhD. Rose collaborates with and writes for Da Thirst magazine, which aims to level the playing field between established and beginning artists. She has recently taken to stand-up comedy where she explores the humour of being objectified.  

Miss Rose Rowson

Rose, aged 26, daughter of Anna Clarke and Martin Rowson, a retired barrister, and a political cartoonist, living in Ladywell. Rose received her Masters in Media Studies from the Amsterdam University of the Arts, and wrote her thesis on magical writing practices and contemporary digital culture. She is working on having her research published and applying for a PhD. Rose collaborates with and writes for Da Thirst magazine, which aims to level the playing field between established and beginning artists. She has recently taken to stand-up comedy where she explores the humour of being objectified.

 

Miss Fola Evans Akingbola Fola, aged 22, younger daughter of two to Dr. Gillian Evans and Sola Akingbola, an anthropologist, and a musician of Honour Oak Park. Fola has studied acting at the National Youth Theatre, the Actors' Temple, and the Identity School of Acting. She has been modelling to support her acting training since the age of eighteen. Fola appeared in three episodes of Game of Thrones, and has most recently received a major role on Hulu’s upcoming show Dawn, premiering in 2017. Fola values her English-Nigerian lineage, and finds it important to identify as mixed race, without choosing one dominating culture.  

Miss Fola Evans Akingbola

Fola, aged 22, younger daughter of two to Dr. Gillian Evans and Sola Akingbola, an anthropologist, and a musician of Honour Oak Park. Fola has studied acting at the National Youth Theatre, the Actors' Temple, and the Identity School of Acting. She has been modelling to support her acting training since the age of eighteen. Fola appeared in three episodes of Game of Thrones, and has most recently received a major role on Hulu’s upcoming show Dawn, premiering in 2017. Fola values her English-Nigerian lineage, and finds it important to identify as mixed race, without choosing one dominating culture.

 

Miss Danielle Field Danielle, aged 23, eldest daughter of four to Andre and Grace Field. Danielle received her degree at UAL London College of Communication and the UAL Chelsea College of Arts, concentrating on Graphic Design, with an interest in Film and Editorial. Her work has been recognised by D&AD, and received an award last year. She is inspired by British youth culture and, together with two friends, she is developing a social project that teaches young people to be in control of their creative process. She aspires to become a creative director and would like to continue contributing to and impacting our culture.

Miss Danielle Field

Danielle, aged 23, eldest daughter of four to Andre and Grace Field. Danielle received her degree at UAL London College of Communication and the UAL Chelsea College of Arts, concentrating on Graphic Design, with an interest in Film and Editorial. Her work has been recognised by D&AD, and received an award last year. She is inspired by British youth culture and, together with two friends, she is developing a social project that teaches young people to be in control of their creative process. She aspires to become a creative director and would like to continue contributing to and impacting our culture.

Words: Isabel Ulatowski

Photography: Ester Keate

Copy edited by: Elena Stanciu