emily.sylman (@) gmail.com

Dictionary of New Terms: Edition 1: Emotional Sensations, 2016

Dictionary of New Terms: Edition 1: Emotional Sensations is a collection of photographs that act as visual references to a series of fictionalized words that describe specific emotional sensations. Accompanying the images is the “dictionary” itself, with definitions and diagrams of the actions, meant to act as a tool the viewer can use to understand the images. 

Created in the context of a study of these sensations, a wide variety of people were asked to describe what it felt like when they experienced the following 8 specific sensations:

1. When you step on a snail and hear the shell break
2. When the radio cuts out and you hear white noise
3. When you see a crazy photo of outer space
4. When you come home after a long time away
5. When you are looking at something beautiful and you are by yourself
6. When you zone out
7. When you are really, really hungry and finally eat something
8. When you are texting someone something vulnerable and see the “…” while you wait for them to reply 

Their answers were recorded, and then demonstrated and photographed in a studio setting. 

The act of trying to represent and demonstrate specific feelings is a strange sort of task, one that feels nearly impossible. The nature of these peculiar sensations is that there is no word for them, and it’s hard to put your finger on exactly what it feels like to feel these things. This means that the images can act only as a suggestion of these feelings, and the viewer is tasked with interpreting what they mean for themselves before using the dictionary as a guide. 

By giving these sensations names, photographing them in a demonstrative, clinical manner, and putting them in a type of book reserved for study of facts and learning, these feelings we often have but don’t know how to talk about become validated, and enter a space a common understanding and empathy.