Sara Messinger

Exposure: Sara Messinger

US photographer Sara Messinger talks about the power of teenagers to Gem Fletcher, plus explains how switching from soccer to photography changed her approach to life

“It’s such a powerful time; there’s so much rawness,” Mary Ellen Mark told Aperture magazine 27 years ago when asked why she finds photographing teenagers so compelling. “They are going through so much physically that they exhibit a real vulnerability, yet, at the same time, defiance. Teenagers are very unpredictable. That fascinates me.”

Teenagers’ lives have long captivated visual storytellers’ imaginations, perhaps most potently due to their role in shaping the future. Often unknowingly, they offer a snapshot of where we are headed – culturally, socially and politically – based upon intuition and feeling.

Sara Messinger spent the last three years chronicling teens and their relationship with identity on New York’s Lower East Side, tracing the connective tissue of their friendships told through small everyday gestures of care and togetherness. Her images offer an intimate gaze upon a generation dismantling the gender binary, quietly illuminating how Gen Z adopts a multiplayer mode, their identity existing as a fluid state rather than a definitive category.

Sara Messinger
Top and above: From the series Teenagers; All images: © Sara Messinger