We live in an ever-changing, ever-evolving world yet despite constant adjustment, history undoubtedly repeats itself. Take the Great Depression of the 1930’s and the economic crisis of 2008… or the unfortunate revival of U2. Comeback tours, revived acting careers, Bush 1 and unfortunately, Bush 2. Sometimes, things really should just stay in the past.

Fortunately, not all revivals send us running for the hills. The past year has undeniably seen a boom in 90s culture, paraphernalia and fashion. Docs, chokers, mood rings, reefers, bootlegs, slap bracelets, jellies, turtlenecks, bucket hats. The list goes on. We are breathing life back into the 90s at an alarming rate and personally, it’s not as bad as I’d have perceived ten odd years ago.

But are we merely an echo of the authentic 90s teen or twenty something?  What about the real teenagers of the 90s? The unapologetic, the unashamedly raw?

If you need a daily fix of these inspiring and often heartbreaking stories, then you are bound to love Adrienne Salinger and her project In My Room: Teenagers in Their Bedrooms” (1995). The book explores the lives of 40 teens, hand picked off the streets of the US, who are interviewed and photographed in perhaps the only environment they can call their own; their bedroom.

The text, in conjunction with photography, harbors a range of emotions and provokes the reader to ask ‘Who is this kid? What is their story?’

Unfortunately, we’ll never know.

However, where words are lacking, image comes into play. Each room is a smorgasbord of visuals, from the surgically clean to the dumpster of yesterdays smelly socks or last nights spliff. If you look past the subject, life takes form. The beauty of Salinger’s project is the built up structure of her subjects, or lack there of.

Stuffed animals sit amongst tubes of mascara and lipstick. A photo on the wall depicts a class excursion to DC. Videotapes are stacked neatly next to each other. A landline phone sits discarded on the floor. Save a few dated objects, are we in the now so different?

There’s the privileged looking girl diagnosed as bipolar and manic-depressive. The new kid in school recently relocated from a sunny paradise. The talented skater caught up in the wrong crowd. These are just a few of the faces showcased in ‘In My Room: Teenagers in Their Bedrooms’.

Themes within the book include death, relationships, friends, family, conflict, career and substance abuse; issues which are a melting pot for the ‘awkward years’ and its unavoidable goody bag of bullies, nerds, grades and girls…

Bridgette B. didn’t go the prom because she didn’t have a date. Her appearance is cumbersome as she slumps, unsmiling on her half-made bed. But there is more to the story:

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‘I get so frustrated. I wish I could explain to my parents that despite what they believe, I believe something else.’

Ellen L, somber and shy is buckling under her parent’s pressure to achieve success.

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‘My parents used to push me to practice in a way because they wanted me to play the violin and have music in my life, but in another way they wanted me to do well and excel, to win competitions and get into a good college.’

Joe H. smiles feebly at the camera. He finds it hard to secure a job because of his hair, but he won’t compromise his individuality.

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‘People think I am on drugs because of my appearance. But I’m not.’

There is no denying that every room has multifaceted layers. Though each story is fleeting, these teens have a lot to teach us with what it means to grow up in a world with so much uncertainty. ‘In My Room: Teenagers in Their Bedroom’s is more than a project capturing fashion and trends, It’s a social commentary on human life, frozen in time.

By Marnie Feuerriegel