Beyond Photography

Las Fotos Project (LFP) is more than simply teaching teen girls about photography. It is about building self-esteem, positive social relationships, identifying and addressing social issues within their communities, and life skills. Our teen girls are paired with mentors, who not only teach them about the art of photography, but also help them develop leadership and independent living skills through empowerment.

Elizabeth Lopez (also known as Liz), a graphic designer, freelance photographer and college student at Cal State Fullerton, began volunteering at LFP after having been introduced to the program by a friend. Liz admits that LFP is not only a program she identifies with but also “a program that I wish would have been available during my adolescent years.”

Because it is still early in the semester, Liz, who mentors in Boyle Heights on Saturdays, is in the process of building positive relationships with her mentees. She and other mentors have begun engaging their respective mentees into group discussions introducing them to the basics of photography. Liz, who looks forward to the beginning of the one-to-one mentoring sessions, identifies her mentees as “sweet and ambitious girls.”

Liz hopes that through their participation in Las Fotos Project, her mentees will gain 1) new friendships, 2) confidence in identifying their hard work, 3) self-expression of ideas and views, and 4) “the knowledge and understanding that the camera is a powerful tool of communication.”

Arely, Las Fotos Project Student PhotographerOne of Liz’ mentees is 14 year old, Arely Gabriela Ortiz, who Liz describes as a strong, observant, very ambitious young lady with firm views and eager to put what she learns about photography into practice. For Arely, being a Latina photographer is a form of self-expression, personally and culturally.

“Photography has taught me to look at my community through a different perspective and really appreciate its beauty. It has taught me to be more patient and observant, especially when I’m behind the camera.

Through Las Fotos, Project I have gained self-confidence knowing that through a camera, I have the power to make something mundane seem beautiful. I have also gained new friendships, and something to look forward to every Saturday.”

Currently, Arely and her fellow mentees are learning to become “comfortable behind a camera and mastering the technical side of a photograph,” including focus and angles, as well as deciding on the overall theme for their final exhibition so they may then branch into their individual themes.

Arely, capturing nature in Boyle Heights

When asked about her relationship with Liz, Arely said “I can see that she is someone I will have in my life for a long time and someone I can look up to. She is extremely nice and shows that she actually cares and welcomes our ideas and questions.”

Arely feels “blessed to be a part of this program and to have been given this great opportunity of learning and exploring a new field.”

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