John Suler's Photographic Psychology: Image and Psyche

- Sturm und Drang -

It isn’t easy being a teenager. Developmental psychologists have referred to it as the period of “sturm und drang” (storm and stress). This may be especially true in our modern times when so many pressures, biological and social, challenge the identity of the teenager.

My daughter actually was in a good mood that night when she sat down on the foyer step to talk with us. She had just come home from a Halloween party, for which she wore a "Wayne's World" costume. I was sitting on the living room rug with my camera at the time, and decided to lie down below her to snap off a few shots while we talked.

In this one, I like how her arms, legs, and head alll converge on the center of her body, which expresses the idea of the inner focus and internal struggle that many teenagers experience. The heavy dark vignetting and black frame add to that closed-in, internalized, overwhelmed feeling. The untied sneakers and holes in her jeans also suggest a struggle, chaos, being worn down and unable to function properly. In post-processing of the image, I used a technique that is popular among her generation: a dramatic and edgy high contrast along with a subdued saturation of color, as if some emotions are suppressed even if their lives are intense. Despite that overall reduced saturation, I decided to boost the red in her hair as a reminder of the underlying emotional intensities. The fact that we can't see her face allows her to become a generic figure representing all teenagers, as well as conveys the idea that adolescents aren't always sure about who they are, or they may feel they need to hide their thoughts and feelings. Although we adults know this is all part of growing up, the low camera angle magnifies the largeness of the subject matter in the eyes of the teenager.


Would you like to read or participate in a discussion about this image in flickr?

Here are some other articles in Photographic Psychology that are related to this photo and essay:

The Big Picture of Composition
Image Shaping ("post-processing")
Symbolism: What does it mean?

Photographic Psychology: Image and Psyche