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.
Words: Isabel Ulatowski
Photography: Ester Keate
Copy edited by: Elena Stanciu