Given the opportunity, very few of us would return to those potent days of teenagerhood, where social interactions flipped between exhilarating and mortifying at the same alarming rate as spots sprouted upon our faces. As well as coping with a continuous stream of exams, traversing the politics of friendship and batting away a barrage of peer pressure, there was also a plethora of new and raging hormones bubbling under the surface, just to add to the pressure and confusion. No thank you!
In a bid to navigate all these feelings, photographer Emily Stein and art director Kaysha Sinclair have joined forces to create The A–Z of Teenage Emotions, a handy guide to help teenagers today (and those dealing with them) to embrace and understand everything they’re going through.
“We started off wanting to make a project that concentrated on teenage boys’ emotions as we both felt it was really important that they understand and feel open to exploring their emotions rather than traditionally bottling them up,” explains Stein and Sinclair on how the project began. “As we worked on this idea though, we realised it was just as important to include everyone as the subject is relevant to all teenagers, no matter what sex.”
The guide adopts a flash card-style approach where phrases such as ‘A is for feeling awesome’ or ‘F is for feeling frisky’ are accompanied by portraits of teens expressing that particular emotion. “We found the teenagers from all over London,” says Stein and Sinclair on how they chose models for the project. “We would run down the street to catch up with them and looked for certain types of teens in more specific spaces. We wanted to include all types of teenagers, all types of emotions and for it to feel relatable and inclusive.”
Utilising Stein’s photography skills and Sinclair’s design know-how, the pair worked collaboratively in bringing all the different elements together. “We wanted the guide to feel fresh and modern but with a nostalgic feel to it so that adults would also be reminded of their own youth and teenage years,” they explain. “The guide is as much for adults and parents to remember how these years feel, and how amazing and hard they are. We think this is something we should all remember as our teenage years really form us and make us who we are.”
The portraits celebrate the fresh faces of these teens and are captured in soft, muted tones. It was important to both Stein and Sinclair that there was an authenticity to the images being created. “We wanted each teenager to express a real emotion they have or have had, so we spoke to teenagers a lot about how they feel, and what they would like to say,” they explain. “A lot of the teen portraits were guided by these real emotions that they feel.”
Combined with friendly typography and a simple colour palette of red, black and white, the cards are a thought-starter, a prompt to talk about what’s going on. The next step for Stein and Sinclair is to start taking the guide to publishers in the hopes of it becoming a book or series of educational flashcards. Whatever the outcome, the pair ultimately hope this project makes teens feel a little less alone. “Your emotions are your whole world at that age, they own you and that is something hard to rationalise and overcome,” says Stein and Sinclair.
The main takeaway from the guide is that emotions should be recognised and understood, rather than carried silently. Growing up as a teenager in 2019 there’s a whole new set of concerns, issues and worries that many of us never needed to even consider when we were younger, so if this project can provide a bit of light in the darkness, who are we to argue with that?