Janelle Tong: A Stream of Emotional Consciousness



Photography and Text by Janelle Tong, Copyright 2017




As much as we try to display to others our emotions through facial expressions or bodily movements, the actual experience of these emotions is inherently an individual and isolated process. Through this series of portraitures, I aim to visually capture metaphors for the feelings associated with experiencing happiness, love, sadness, and despair. With the incorporation of a bedsheet as a prop, the concept is to analogize it to the seemingly-physical and tactile nature of our emotional experiences. As a supplement to my photographs, I wrote the following four prose pieces to capture the mental states related to each of these emotions.


Shared happiness.

A dinner with family, a party with friends, a walk along the beach.

Hands entwined and swinging gently beside us. Playful tug of war with bedsheets.

Shared memories, perspectives, moments.

Laugh with them. Smile with them. Cheer with them. Hug them. Kiss them.

Happiness is a butterfly, flitting around our fingertips but just barely beyond our reach.

But when another pair of hands helps you catch that butterfly, it doesn’t seem to be that far off anymore.


Completely wrapped up by you, but that’s okay.

My hands are tied, my heart is stolen, but that’s okay.

Because this is love, and nothing makes sense. Nothing has to make sense in love.

Anxious happiness.

Crazed optimism.

Foolish fearlessness.

Erratic passion.

Neurotic aspirations.

Obsessed dreams.

But that’s okay. Because this is love. And nothing should make sense in love.


The tug is gone. They are gone. No one is around.

The pull from another person has left. Sadness envelops me. There, there. Sadness is here.

After everyone has gone, after no one is left. Sadness will be here for you.

The weight pulls down on my shoulders. Sadness insidiously awaits, takes its time to take its toll.

Cry, my child. Let me comfort you. Let me embrace you.

Sadness will always be here for you.


I’m fine. But I’m not.

Keep composure. Tangled, torn, trapped. I can’t breathe.

Pull yourself together. Something twists in my stomach. My chest feels heavy. I can’t escape.

Stop this. Tears stream down. The twisting snakes around my body. I want to scream but can’t.

Deep breaths. Nothing works. Everything falls apart. I brought this all onto myself. I can’t get out.

Ease ensnared entangled entrapped embarrassed ended

Dream despair damned depressed disillusioned desperate

Calm constricted constrained choked cornered can’t

Breathe battered bare broken busted burden





About The Author: Janelle Tong is a Senior enrolled in the Wharton School of Business, University of Pennsylvania, Class of 2017


Janelle Tong

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *