In an article published in 2008, sociologist Penny Tinkler argued that “Very little is known about the photographic practices of people under 18 — that is, the range of ways and media through which they take, feature in, and use photographs.” Today, her words might make readers chuckle. Anyone looking at teenagers’ current photo uses would be surprised at how quickly Tinkler’s concerns are no longer valid. According to KPBC’s Internet Trends Report, over 1.8 billion new photos were shared every day on social media in 2014. With teenagers and young adults as primary users, it is hard to imagine their experiences being left out of the picture.
Tinkler advocated for more studies on teenagers’ photo uses, arguing that “important aspects of childhood, youth, and growing up are often experienced and/or expressed in part through photographic practices.” This view of photography as a way of expression still holds true. What seems different today are teenagers’ concerns. Take, for example, the words Tinkler quotes from an Australian teenager in 2008:
It’s pretty funny looking at old photos. I got them out today because well I’m kind of looking to see who I am … and I think who you are is made up of our [sic] past … It’s really funny seeing me on the outside ’cause all I know is me on the inside.
The girl’s surprise at the differences between what is known inside and what is shown outside is remarkable. Like Tinkler, she probably saw photographs as an opportunity to discover herself from a new perspective. Today, six brief years after the girl’s testimony but trillions of photographs ahead, teenagers seem not to perceive the difference between inner and outer selves.
— Alexia Raynal, Zeteo Associate Editor
To read more posts in the fields of children and childhood by Alexia Raynal, visit her ZiR page here. For an exploration of children’s lives between two worlds read Alexia’s article “Children Challenging Borders: The physical and psychological journeys that the children of immigrants make for their families,” published by Zeteo last fall.
“A fragmented picture: reflections on the photographic practices of young people,” Penny Tinkler, Visual Studies, Vol. 23, No. 3, December 2008.