As part of our Safe Spaces London intensive summer programme, we discussed the impact stress and anxiety has on us everyday life, as well as different ways to cope with these feelings. Young people of varying ages took part in this session, providing a variety of backgrounds and experiences to add to the discussion. Exploring how artists use photography to share their narratives and understand their emotions, the young people created their own independent photo-series about how they manage stress and anxiety. 

Saarah, 19

"These pictures convey what I have observed around me in regards to stress as a teenager. Throughout my whole life me and some of my friends have experienced what some of these pictures try to convey. However, what is worth noting is that stress does get smaller the more someone acts upon it and reaches out to someone where it may seem unbearable."

"The first photo conveys the stress of being academically successful and always trying to achieve something at a young age, you constantly try to seek academic validation." Whether it was because of exams or friendship groups, the young people felt that education has factored heavily into their feelings of stress and anxiety. 

"A lot of young people, such as my friends, may be stressed out by their identity. Usually, my friends from the LGBTQIA+ community stress of the reactions outsiders may have towards their identity." 

"Stressing about how long and where life may lead you is daunting, we tend to stress on our destination but never focus on the journey that leads us to where we want to be."

"We are all fighting our secretive and individual battles everyday."

"We may also stress about appearances, the way we look, however the gym is seen to be a place where we can let all that anxiety go."

"There is support, a whole network we can turn to." 

"The plant represents how we are all growing from experience, and just like how plants give us oxygen to live, we may share and relate our own experiences with others."

Hanaa, 11 

Hanaa's photo series focuses on his interactions with the world; most especially his fears and interests. 


"I like art so I took a picture of the makeup that has been done and the person doing the make up." Makeup can be a tool to both relieve our troubles and mask them. Painting can take our mind off our fears; however, we can also use makeup to cover them.

"I took a picture of a lift because I'm scared of them. This took a couple of tries." By photographing the things we fear, we are able to confront what scares us and take power away from it. Understanding how and why we are afraid of something is really important because it provides us with the stepping stool to overcome these fears.

"I like playing on the PC and playing video games and board games, like pool. I also like matching YouTube." Listening to music and playing games is a good way to relieve stress as it takes our mind off our worries. In a later conversation, Hanaa discussed how in the past he used to game or watch TV all the time, but recently began focusing more on language learning and school work. Hanaa highlighted that it is important to understand how stress reliving tasks can turn into unproductive behaviour which can then lead to further stress.

Nureynu, 18

Nureynu looks to nature when stressed as he finds the peacefulness of outside relaxing. He appreciates the beauty of the world and believes that we can learn from the Earth.

"I think birds represent a sense of freedom which really inspires me and others to bloom everyday."

"I like this photo because I like leaves. Leaves to me means and symbolises calmness, purity and simplicity. I like the way the leaf is green and with no negative influence on others."

This project was produced as a collaboration between Spotlight and Headliners (UK) by Saarah, Hanaa, and Nureynu.
Thank you to the Edward Gostling Foundation for making these sessions possible.