Deanna Templeton’s book captures the emotional relatability of girlhood

What She Said blends contemporary portraits of young women with ephemera gathered during the photographer’s own adolescence in the 1980s

Deanna Templeton’s new book What She Said features portraits of young women taken across Europe, the US, Australia and Russia, merged with images of personal materials that Templeton herself amassed in the 1980s, such as gig flyers and excerpts of her own diary from the time.

Published by Mack, the book draws influence from a lyric in the Smiths’ 1985 song of the same name: “What she said was sad, but then, all the rejection she’s had, to pretend to be happy could only be idiocy.” The lyric is a fitting prelude to the complexity of emotions that underscores Templeton’s project, which beautifully illustrates how teenage angst and vivid emotions transcend time.

All images by Deanna Templeton from What She Said, 2021. Courtesy the artist and Mack

There’s up to 40 years separating the materials relating to her own teenage pursuits and the portraits of the young women in the book. The project is also deeply personal; Templeton’s handwritten diary entries are prominently blown up on the page, laying bare her teenage anxieties, loneliness, questions, joys and fears.

Yet its cohesiveness as a body of work is testament to the universality of experiences and emotions that shape many young women around the world, stubbornly persisting through generations and time zones.

The emotional reprieve Templeton found in the local music scene in Huntington Beach, California is embodied in the way posters and band references are woven throughout the book, a sentiment mirrored in the contemporary photographs of young women whose identity is intertwined with subculture and punk aesthetics.

In the time since her own adolescence, social media has become both a platform and outlet for the emotional overspill of girls and young women. Yet if we recognise Instagram and TikTok as simply the contemporary digital incarnation of Templeton’s handwritten musings, it becomes clear that the emotions, the turmoil, the search for identity are a rite of passage; one that’s been experienced by past generations of young women and will be experienced by many more to come – and there’s something remarkably comforting to glean from that.

What She Said by Deanna Templeton is published by Mack;


Milton Keynes