First-time photographers on what it means to be a teenager today

A group of London teenagers have staged an exhibition of photos exploring the pressures of youth, for a new strand of Exposure Gallery shows dedicated to mental health

Photographer: Yasmine Goumri

The photos were taken as part of a series of workshops organised by not-for-profit The Photography Movement, which uses talks, classes and exhibitions to create conversations around mental wellbeing.

The organisation worked with teenagers at the London Academy of Excellence Tottenham, teaching them the basics of using an SLR camera, setting up lighting, and inviting working photographers into the school to share insights on how they could use photography to express their emotions. At the end of the workshops, the students were set a summer brief to create a series of images exploring what it feels like to be a teenager in the modern world.

“They were incredibly emotive and very open,” says former creative director Steve Wallington, who set up The Photography Movement in 2017 with Scott Shillum, after losing family and friends to suicide. “These teenagers were talking about diversity, race, their own experience culturally. One student was from Syria, and one had been in real hardship, and that came through in some of the conversations.”

Photographer: Mariam Hussein
Photographer: Mamum Miah

The series of photographs is undeniably emotive, with students creating powerful imagery of hands clasped together or reaching out, and shooting intimate portraits of family and friends.

“You’ve got 16-17 year-olds who’ve never picked up a camera, and some of them were astonishing,” adds Wallington. “They were really inventive in thinking about their thoughts and feelings, and that’s what we wanted to get out of this.”

Photographer: Tony Nguyen
Photographer: Michael Leonida
Photographer: Rebecca Dan

Selected images are being shown at London’s Exposure Gallery in October, as part a series of photography shows exploring mental health. As well as the students’ work, there’s an exhibition of portraits shot by Charlie Clift, showing his subjects’ inner thoughts painted across their faces by artist Kate Forrester, as well as a series of photographs of suicide respite centre Maytree, shot by Daniel Regan. Refinery29 has also partnered with Flora Maclean to show a set of images exploring how mental health is visually presented.

How does it feel to be a teenager in the modern world? is on until 17 October, at London’s Exposure Gallery. The Photography Movement’s series of curated exhibitions continues until December 13;