They sleep in our houses, eat the same dinner, breathe the same air, yet teenagers have lives so different than most adults that they might as well be aliens. Sure, we've all gone through that awkward adolescent stage and experienced the complex social structure that is high school - but tell any teen today that you were once their age, and they will tell you that it was different back then. And they'd be right.
Photographer and author Michael Franzini set out on a Herculean task: to capture the full spectrum of teen life and to understand what it means to be a teenager in America today. He traveled to all fifty states - a total of 30,000 miles in five months - to meet, interview, and photograph teens, ranging from the mainstream kids like the jocks, the cheerleaders, and the studious preps, to the fringe kids like the goths, the skaters, and skinheads, and everyone else in between.
Michael has put together the life, richly illustrated with photographs, of 100 young Americans - a slice of what he thinks is representative of the modern teen culture - in his book One Hundred Young Americans.
What Michael found is nothing short of amazing: there is a generation gap that is wider than ever before, shaped by the ubiquity of technology. Teens today have instant access to people and information through the web, instant messaging, and cell phones that their parents could never have imagined. With MySpace, their neighborhood play yard has literally thousands of participants. With blogs, their lives are like an open book - indeed, many share their most intimate thoughts with strangers. With technology, they have more independence and a brand new level of freedom.
In the One Hundred Young Americans website (a preview until the book launches on October 30, 2007), you can browse a gallery of teens that Michael met in his journey. There are video clips of 19-year-old Lindsey Adams, who has been racing cars since the eight grade and whose goal is to be the first woman to win the Indie 500, and of TJ Williams, an 18-year-old who loves to fiddle with his car, hang out with buddies, chase women and ... ride bulls!
Here's a small selection of the stories you will find in the website, which itself is only an excerpt of the upcoming book:
Jake [19, Arizona] has 15,000 friends on MySpace and gets followed through the mall by girls who recognize him as an online celebrity.
April [18, Nevada] is the youngest sex worker at the world famous Bunny Ranch, which she saw on the HBO series Cathouse. Every day, two or three men each pay $5,000 for an hour alone with her.
Jon [19, California] is a skinhead who proudly calls himself a racist. He says the white race is disappearing, and he's pissed off about racial mixing. He lives in a trailer with a Nazi flag on the wall and a shotgun under his bed.
David [17, Maryland] plays 60 hours of role-play video games a week, and he tries not to talk to anyone at school. Kids at school make fun of his hair, but he ignores them and keeps walking.
Reskew [18, New York] is one of New York City's most wanted graffiti artists. He wouldn't let us show his face or use his real name. His tag appears in over 200 illegal locations around the city. He says he does it for the adrenaline.
For more stories, photographs, and video clips of the One Hundred Young Americans, check out Michael Franzini's website: Link [Flash website] (don't miss the interview with the author!)
Note: This review is sponsored by the 100 Young American website. Although I am compensated for this review, the words and opinion (with the exception of the quoted text) are all mine. There was no editorial pressure to write only positive reviews.