ESTA SOY YO: PERSPECTIVES

The Esta Soy Yo: Perspectives class encouraged Las Fotos Project students to use photography as a tool to explore their identities, share their unique perspectives, and reflect on their environments. As they experimented with techniques or played with colors to enhance their digital photos, the students learned non-traditional approaches to using this medium as therapy and a creative outlet.

The resulting photographs that make up this exhibition tell the stories of girls who have complex lives and relationships, and who are learning to define value, love, happiness, and freedom. From DIY studios to arrangements in nature, there are small windows into their family dynamics, cultural traditions, and personal feelings. The people surrounding the students also take center stage as they become muses or mirrors that reflect more about their essence. Lineage and roots can be translated into a low-rider or a Bolivian flute – while a tree, skatepark, or bracelet conveys feelings of safety and belonging. By photographing objects, memorabilia, or the places they are from, the students discover what truly matters to them and continue to find their voice. They show what is available to them, what is worth celebrating, and what they hold dear.

Whether it be for personal healing, body positivity, inspiration, or documentation, the camera becomes a platform for the students’ evolving self-awareness. Naturally, their photos and poetic descriptions become an extension of who they are.

TEACHING ARTIST
June Caneda

MENTORS
Amara Higuera
Jessica Chanen-Smith
Maddie Keyes-Levine
Maya Wali-Richardson
Stephanie Kropp
Stephanie Lemus
Will Navarro


Anaïs Rallion, 15

My name is Anaïs Rallion and I am 15 years old. As a faithful person, I look at the world in the best light. In a negative situation, I will look for the smallest ounce of happiness to carry me on. Life has taught me that no matter how grueling the situation is, there is always a positive aspect. In my photography, I have been inspired through life. In looking at other angles through my camera lens, I have seen another point of view in a scene. I am always reminded that faith starts with me and I am the driving force to push myself forward. As a motivated student, I pride myself in the work that I put in both inside and outside of the classroom. I learned deeper values of sisterhood in joining cross country, which I will continue to carry with me and will for the rest of my life.

I have loved flowers since I was tall enough to pick one from the tree and put it to my nose, examining its petals and stem. I would watch them waving in the wind, without a care in the world. Photographing them makes me feel at ease and gives me a feeling of peace. With this project, I want you to see places or things that are meaningful to me. I used many elements of the sun at different times of the day because I like to be outside and be aware of my surroundings.

PEERING THROUGH THE GRASS – I’m walking during the “golden hour” and I stop to see the beauty of the world. I look to my right at the tall cement wall elevating the house from the sidewalk. As the sun shines brightly through the blade of grass, I feel at peace. There is a large tree in the background which is spreading its brightly illuminated branches out into the world.

CAPTURING SUNSHINE – There’s a glass bottle in front of you. The light passes through the opening, creating a ring of warm fuzz around it. The sun appears inside the bottle. It’s trapped. Sunshine reflects on the small tree, leaves, and lamppost, and the clouds relax you.

A FARAWAY DREAM – It’s a pastel vibe, just like a dream. The clouds are wispy and the sun is beginning its descent for the day. Everything feels together, but it’s not. The flowers look up once more, grabbing the last rays of shine, detaching itself from the day. Their magenta and white colors are muted, clumping together while remaining separate from one another.

BOUGAINVILLEA – The burst of orange clump together in the shape of the number eight— signifies infinite energy and love. The reflection from the glass blurs the unique veins of the petals giving them an identical composition.

STOP AND STARE – A wish is a dream your heart makes. A phrase we have heard over and over again. You stand under the plumeria while making a wish. You take a deep breath and smile. With countless possibilities, it is hard to think of just one, yet somehow you do.

THE WINDOW – A new day has started. The fresh breeze that comes with change, whistling birds, swaying leaves, distant sounds of people’s voices, it’s all right there. Other than subtle noises, everything is quiet. From the kitchen counter, you can enjoy your meal or have your favorite drink. The view from the window is just perfect.

I have lived in my neighborhood for almost my entire life, and I hope you can experience my favorite memories through my eyes. I chose to include black and white images to give a sense that you’re not in the photo but that you are almost looking at the scene from my perspective. I also chose to include color images, focusing on orange tones. I’ve always associated orange with joy and serenity, similar to the effect of a sunset. I paired the images with poetic captions that reflect what I think when I look at the images.

ICE COLD POOL – The plants have been rearranged countless times and they are finally perfect where they are. The first chill of winter is near and the water is slowly getting colder. In a few weeks, you will have an ice-cold pool. The plants in the pots are starting to be sucked into the hedge, which separates you from any outside forces. It is the small bubble that you are living in.

COLD SHADES OF GRAY – It is warm outside, although the world feels cold. In times of uncertainty and fear, the negative can easily block the positive. It has been like this for months. You decide to go outside and the plumeria slowly degrades your feeling of isolation from the world. At that moment you know everything is going to be ok.

EMERGING COLORS – You take a close look at the plumeria branch that hangs toward the sky. You see a batch of bloomed flowers looking straight ahead. The shades of gray are carried away and you see the brightness of yellow. Red and green tones are starting to emerge. Your nostrils are filled with its beautiful scent as you go up to smell them.

CAN YOU FEEL THAT CHANGE COMING AROUND? – A stroll through my favorite street. It isn’t mine, but I feel like it is. I grew up walking on this sidewalk, jumping over the cracks. I pretended I would fall through into a mysterious world. Year after year and season after season, can you feel the change coming around?


Angelina Flores, 15

I am Angelina Flores, and I am 15 years old, and I think of myself as a creative person. My goal in life is to become a great photographer, a “hard working” student, and to have a successful future. One thing I have accomplished that I’m proud of is that my work was displayed. This made me very proud to know that people enjoy looking at my work. One thing that made me want to participate this semester was the chance to learn more about photography and to get feedback on my work. Something I hope to learn this semester is how to take better portraits of people and how to master light. I feel like when it comes to photography experience I am a Hobbyist. Meaning that some pictures are worthy of being printed and hung, but not all. I hope to become a better photographer so one day my work will be in a well-known art show.

LAS ROSAS DE LA VIDA – This is a picture of my dad’s 63 Impala SS. His car has lots of detail but this part of the car stands out to me because of the roses and maracas. The reason I titled this image “Las Rosas de la Vida” is because the roses symbolize love, family, and harmony. To me, family means love and happiness.

FEEL THE RHYTHM – A lot is happening in this picture. There are Aztec dancers, a boy with a skull mask playing a huehuetl drum, a Folklorico dancer, my brother on a lowrider bike, and my dad’s lowrider. It’s all a part of our culture and a part of my history.

A PART OF HISTORY – In this picture, you see Aztec dancers. Aztec dancers stroll through Mexico City and dance to the rhythm. These dances are a way to honor and worship deities. Aztec dancers are a big part of our culture and a big part of history.

KEEP MOVING – This is a picture of my dad’s car while it was raining. In this picture, you can see how the dark scary clouds are hovering over the car, which makes this picture look dramatic. You can also see how in the background the trees are moving because of the wind.

EL MARAQUERO – My dad named his car “El Maraquero”. This specific name is important to my family because it is the name of my grandfather’s favorite song who unfortunately passed away from cancer when my brother was born. In a way my dad dedicated this car to my grandfather who we miss dearly.

For my final project, I documented my family’s weekend activities with the low rider community. This is very meaningful to me because my family doesn’t spend a lot of time together, but one thing that brings us together is car shows, and that is something we do every weekend.

I enjoy documenting the cars and the community at the car shows, and it’s a way to help me connect with my family and community.

FAMILY FIRST – In this picture, you can see my dad and my uncle Bob sitting in my dad’s 63 Impala SS. When we have nothing to do or when we want to relax we all get into the car and go for a drive. Lowriding is something that helps our family come together when we need family time. One of the other things we do as a family is build lowrider bikes. Overall lowriding is a huge part of our family and it has helped us during hard times.

DANCING TO THE MUSIC – This is a picture of my brother getting into my dad’s car while a Folklorico dancer dances around my dad’s car. Just looking at this picture can tell a story. You can see the Folklorico dancer dancing and her dress moving as she dances. Folklorico is a traditional Mexican dance that emphasizes local folk with ballet, they use pointed toes, exaggerated movements, high choreography, and big pretty dresses. Folklorico is important to the Mexican culture because it developed the tradition of the charreria.

A LITTLE GETAWAY – This is my lowrider bike that helps me get places. I love my bike and I clean it every day so it looks nice and shiny. Whenever I’m feeling overwhelmed, stressed, or have anxiety, I hop on my bike and ride around the block for about an hour to have time to think and be alone.

NIÑA CHIQUITA – This is my little sister Melody Rose and she is the funniest, happiest, shyest little girl I’ve ever met. This picture reminds me of a picture my mom took when I was her age and it made me realize how fast time flies. Melody is my mini-me. This picture is one of the funniest pictures I’ve taken of her because the hat was too big for her head so we made her hold it instead.

RAIN OR SHINE – In this picture, we were going for a drive-by anniversary party for my neighbors. I got to capture this picture of all the cars that were driving to the party. This picture is called “Rain or Shine” because it was a rainy day and even though it was raining, the lowrider community still attended the party.


Ariana Perez, 14

I am 14 years old and enjoy music, art, and literature (but also science). I would consider myself to be a philomath. I just love learning about different subjects and even at higher levels because it gives me a challenge. I have been in numerous activities learning how to code or basic computer science to when I memorized 22 digits of pi at the age of 6. I like spending time watching 80’s movies with my cat, Kiki, and I play both the piano and the violin. I play chess and take golf lessons. Although I write and draw with my right hand I play golf with my left hand, it’s strange but sadly not a strength for golf (lefties aren’t very common and it’s hard to find equipment and proper clubs). I like to write poetry, take photos, and create films that tell a story. I enjoy reading novels and learning new things. I am planning my quinceañera with my parents, which means a lot to me.

My project is about my perspective on this quarantine. I wanted to picture the different emotions that I’m sure we have all felt during these times. I was inspired by Carrie Mae Weems for the setting and style of my photos at the dining table, capturing moments and feelings I’ve had there during the quarantine with my family.

RED – Red is the color of passionate love, fire, emotion, blood, and life.

LOVE – Being married for 15 years, they still love each other. What is life without love, two people share a moment of passion. To express your feelings intimately with a touch and a kiss.

ORANGE – Orange is associated with meanings of joy, warmth, heat, sunshine, enthusiasm, creativity, success, encouragement, change, determination, health, stimulation, happiness, fun, enjoyment, balance, sexuality, freedom, expression, and fascination.

BLUE – Blue is the color of the ocean and the sky; it often symbolizes emptiness, sadness of loss, fear, tranquility, peace, serenity. It can be a calming color and symbolize reliability.

GREEN – Green is the color of nature. It symbolizes growth, health, harmony, freshness, and fertility. Green has strong emotional correspondence with safety.

WHITE – In a wide range of cultures, the color white symbolizes purity, innocence, perseverance and rebirth.

JOY – The joy in laughter strikes even in these sad times, I think it is important to capture shared laughs and giggles. To share a laugh with a loved one about what is funny about life is good for the mind, body, and soul.

SADNESS – During this time, Covid has brought sadness and death to reflect on many loved ones we have lost. A time when families can not spend time together with extended family members out of fear of making them sick. They say death is part of life, but sadness is part of the grieving process to remember those we lost.

HEALTH – During this scary time, health has been the main concern for a lot of people. My parents, who still go to work must be extra careful with this disease spreading like wildfire. Taking care of one’s health and nourishing one’s body is vital to survive this time. A clear mind to reset and think about the day.

PERSEVERANCE – Paperwork, taxes, bills, the home lockdown has brought my parents anxiety, questioning their jobs or how they will be able to pay them; persistence in saving to pay the bills and stretching the dollars despite difficult economic times. To study the finances as a team and pay the bills is something married couples face every day as decisions are made to better their economic future.

I have loved spending time with my family, and I feel like I’ve grown significantly closer than I could have ever before given this time under the same roof. I have learned and grown with my family emotionally and spiritually. I used black and white to capture my family at the dining table for a more serious look. I used color gels to display the relationship between color and emotion that is conveyed in the dining table photo. I want my audience to see the simplicity of the gel and how much a colored image of a still object can have a powerful meaning.

Followed by my colored image is my black and white dining table image, which ties the colored image together for the lack of color in the black and white photo. I hope an audience will read my description and look at my photos and think about the last time they might have felt a certain emotion, especially at this time.

 


Ashley Sanchez, 15

My name is Ashley Sanchez and I’m 15 years old. I’m a hard worker and I like to get things done on my own because it makes me feel productive. I really like helping others because it makes me feel good and I like to be kind because I think everyone deserves a little kindness in their lives. I enjoy creating things and am very passionate about my creative hobbies; like making earrings, embroidering, painting, and taking photos. I prefer being alone but sometimes I don’t mind having company! I’m a little bit of a perfectionist, which I don’t like, but I’m trying to improve on that. I like being able to express myself through photography because it gives me the ability to be creative. Photography allows me to shoot anything to my heart’s content; like showing appreciation for a loved one, showing a certain place that means a lot to me, expressing myself through self-portraits, and anything else that inspires me and makes my creative juices flow!

My project, titled I Love You, is about intimacy and exploring my long-distance relationship with my boyfriend, Brian. I wanted to show the emotions and views of being in a relationship with someone who you can’t physically be around all the time. I wanted to genuinely show the different ways absence and presence feel like in a relationship where we’re apart more than we’re together.

THE SHIBA TROUBLES – My boyfriend Brian knows that I have an attachment to and love for plushies, so it was exciting when he got me one for the first time. We had a lot of trouble trying to get the Shiba since we thought it got lost in the mail, so Brian proceeded to buy a new one (Spoiler alert, now I have twin Shibas). I personally don’t like it when he buys me things because I feel guilty that he spends his money on me, but he always likes to spoil me. That is the reason why I have 4 Shiba plushies, and sadly they don’t have names. The Shibas are a way for me to feel Brian’s presence with me even when we’re apart.

A SIMPLE TOUCH – Initially, it was difficult for my boyfriend and me to make physical contact with each other. Then we decided to hold hands, which was the first time we touched each other. It became our go-to, and ever since we always hold hands when we go on walks or sit on the couch and relax. It’s probably my favorite way to connect with him even though it’s so simple. It’s nice to be able to reach out and hold his hand. This small form of connection gives me so much joy.

I LOVE YOU – I love to stare at my boyfriend because it makes me feel warm inside. There are times when I’ll be staring at him when he’s doing nothing and I’ll just tell him that he looks pretty. His presence, especially when I can see him face to face, makes me so happy and I’m so blessed to have him. I love being around him because he makes me feel like my world is complete. I love you.

THE MAKING – I had gathered some materials from what I had at home and what I got from the 99-Cents store. I decided to use blue and white flowers because blue is Brian’s favorite color and I thought white would match well. I sat on my spinning chair and started to thread the beads through the elastic string to spell out my name and his. I had a lot of fun making our bracelets, and now they mean a lot to both of us.

BABIE TIME – My boyfriend calls it babie time whenever we call, facetime, game, talk, or watch a movie or TV show. I was introduced to a show that I love called ‘’Criminal Minds’’ and ever since he has been hooked on watching. He told me that he is grateful I introduced him to the show because he loves it so much. He calls it “the show” and we always have a good time watching it together in the comfort of my couch or across our screens when we’re apart.

LOST WITHOUT YOU – I feel lost whenever I’m not around my boyfriend because he provides me happiness. When he is not with me I have this empty feeling in my stomach, like my world isn’t complete without him in it. There are days when I don’t want to wake up because I’m stuck in a home where I don’t feel loved and so I yearn to be with Brian, who does make me feel loved. I love him and he loves me no matter what happens. Without him, I feel like I can’t get that unconditional love.

My project focuses on the ups and downs in a relationship in which you can’t often see the person.

I LOVE HER – My baby laughing as I take some photos of her. She kept telling me to take photos of her when she’s standing still but I thought it would be funny to take one while she was moving. This is why you can see her laughing with her hands to her mouth as it was all pure joy from her end and all real reactions. Seeing her happy makes me happy as she doesn’t have that many happy moments so I try my best to make sure she’s always smiling and happy around me. I love you too.’’ The portrait that my boyfriend took of me doesn’t look like one I would take myself because the way he views me is different from the way I view myself. He sees me as always happy and smiling even though I don’t see myself that way.

MESSAGES – Brian and I first met over an app called Discord, and it’s been the way we contact each other ever since. It’s difficult in a relationship to stay connected to each other when you aren’t always physically together. Discord is the form of communication we use most because it’s easy. He sends me cute messages or calls me the cute nicknames that he gave me, which always puts a smile on my face.

OUR WALKS – Here my boyfriend, my brother, and I were walking home from the store. We always enjoy going on our walks around where I live or somewhere new where neither of us has been. It’s something enjoyable that we do together and we like making our walks into adventures. I like how this photo looks because it shows him and I doing our favorite activity together.

OUR BRACELETS – I’ve noticed that some people have matching items with their friends or partners, like a piece of clothing or jewelry. I decided to make a bracelet with Brian’s name on it and then send him a photo of it. He thought it was very adorable and asked me to make him one with my name. We wear them as reminders that we are always there for each other.


Ayana Jackson, 17

The people who know me best would describe me as someone who is outgoing and adventurous. I love being able to explore new places, meet new people and create new experiences. I have been lucky enough to live all around the continent, even spending five years in Belize. I love getting involved in my community regardless of what it is. I believe that one only gets as much out of an experience as what they put in so I try my best to cast the net wide. For as long as I can remember my biggest dream in life has been being able to go to college. As the granddaughter of Dominican immigrants, I know not to take for granted the opportunities I have in education and even in life. Photography allows me to capture moments that are personal and create intimate relationships through the camera. I have always considered myself to be an optimist and I am excited to see what the future has in store for me.

My project is titled El Interesado Busca, a quote often said by my grandfather. Translated to “he who longs, looks,” I want my project to depict the uniqueness of my family, the people who have shaped me to become the person I am today. I hope that these photos convey the importance of family and the idea that there is so much more to people than what meets the eye; we have to take the time to find it.

LOS GEMELOS #1 – Born on the same day, forever connected. Yet they differ in personalities and interests—making them their own beings. My sister is engaged in the photo outside of our house. She is excited to have her photo taken, while my brother seems to have the complete opposite attitude. Connected but differentiated.

LOS GEMELOS #2 – When I asked my sister what it was like to be a twin, she responded with “I don’t think about it much.” I find it interesting that it is simply both of their natures to be used to always having their other half at their side. A built in best friend for life. A unique bond that is eternal.

EL ESPEJO – The older I get, the more I am told that I look like my mother. My hair, my freckles, my mannerisms are all passed down from her. Wearing her jacket, rings, and necklace that she treasured when she was my age, I feel more connected to her. Looking into the mirror I see her in myself.

LA SOLEDAD – I was born seven years before the twins, and I entered alone. I had to navigate the world without siblings, not having to share things, affection, or time. The twins are forever connected in a special bond. It is this unique bond that I have always envied as they will always have each other. Yet I have been able to grow independently and I have had the opportunity to shape my path as an individual.

EL REFLEJO – I like to believe that my mother and I share similar souls. When I look at photos of her when she was my age, I can see pieces of myself looking back at me. I am my mother’s reflection, her firstborn, her creation.

EL TRABAJADOR – My father is one of the most hardworking people I know. Here his eyes tell his story of wisdom, advice, and personal experiences. All things that make him the father he is today.

MADRE Y HIJA – Even though she is a twin, my sister is technically the youngest in the family. Also being the youngest in her family, my mother can relate to my sister in ways that no one else can. They both approach life fiercely yet walk quietly while powerfully letting their achievements speak for themselves.

LA ENTRADA – My younger brother, Santana, sits on the steps of our house upset that his picture is being taken. The gate in front of him not only is a physical barrier but represents the disconnection I have with him behind the camera. His frustration and annoyance are visible.

LAS FLORES – When I look at my younger sister, Aliyah, I don’t think that she looks like me at all. Her gorgeous locks and sharp features make a statement to those who see her. Forever curious and constantly engaged, her bold personally makes its way through her eyes.

PADRE E HIJO – As my father’s only son, they share a special bond. Their conversations are ones only they can understand. I think it is important, however, that my father understands that he cannot live through his son. My father never pushes my brother to be anything but himself, strengthening their connection.


Esmeralda Estrada, 16

Hi, my name is Esmeralda Estrada. I am 16 years old and I am a junior at Hollywood High School. Some adjectives that describe me are quiet, a bit picky, and fun fact I am a virgo. I always loved dance and photography my whole life. Growing up I knew I wanted to be a part of something creative so I decided to go to Hollywood High School. The high school near my house didn’t have many electives and I knew Hollywood could help me out with both. I loved to dance because it was a way to express my self with out having to talk or write and photography allowed me to create memories that can last forever also it gave me the chance to get my mind off of everything around me. Both dance and photography bring me some sort of peace and I now have two skills that I love doing. Someone who I get a lot of inspiration from is my mother. She is a single mom, works hard, and plays two figures in my life. She sacrificed a lot for my sister and me and we love her for that.

These photographs are about the beauty of the imperfections in my neighborhood of South Central LA. I think a lot of people overlook my neighborhood, even if they are from here, sometimes people think it’s not pretty to look at, but there are somethings in the neighborhood that are pretty or cool, and I want to show that there’s more. When people look at my photographs I want them to enjoy looking at them and see what they are missing every day and what they don’t notice daily. I want people to feel like they are in a big car ride with me around my neighborhood when they see these photos. I want them to see the loneliness in these images because it’s a weird state I captured my neighborhood in, because of covid, but also because I took most of these photos from inside of my car. I want people to learn how to have a different view of where they live and how to see everything differently.

With the Las Fotos Project, I have learned more about photography and different ways to take my pictures. For example, if I want a more intense photo, I can go with a black and white photo, or with gels, I can make a joyful photo. I feel like I can use all the things I have learned later on in my life. One thing I love about being a photographer is how I’m able to get people to see what I see or what I think— this is special to me.

DASHBOARD – Mom’s car, October 2020. In this photo, you can see a dashboard. Something you see every day, whether you drive or you don’t drive. By looking at this photo I am seeing a passenger’s point of view, I can see all the details of the dashboard, the numbers, the glass on top of the dashboard, and a lot of lines.

HOUSE OF MURALS – 92nd & Hooper, October 2020. In this photo, you can see a building with pictures. Just by looking at it, I can tell it is something that attracts a lot of people’s eyes, that it has a history, that it stands out from all the other houses, that it tells a lot of different stories from one side of the house to the other.

COVID TEST – Normandie, November 2020. In this photo, you can see a whole bunch of cars in line. This is normal life now. This is a covid test site at 8:00 AM. I see a big space filled with cars. I see a reflection of a hand in the window. I see that everyone around me is living the same experience as me. “Covid-19: U.S. Breaks Daily Record With Over 99,000 New Cases” is what I see when I search for what’s going on in the world.

GREEN HOUSE – 87th Street, November 2020. In this photo, you can see a normal house with a weird structure. Just by looking at this photo, I see it as two different streets. One lonely street and one busy street. I can see the light coming inside the car. The photo reminds me of a big painting.

UPS TRUCK – On the street, November 2020. In this photo, you can see a UPS truck in the middle of the street. By looking at it I see a UPS truck that is lonely. I see a pattern of rectangles that are looking lonely as well. I see how all the colors in this picture just blend together.

OUTSIDE CAR – My house, November 2020. In this photo, you can see a car without the front end. When I look at this photo, I feel like the car is staring at me. I see the roots of the car. I can see the grass is dying and the fence in the back doesn’t have a gate. I see an incomplete car that’s in an incomplete space.

WORKING MAN – Century & Main, October 2020. In this photo, you can see a man fixing his tire. By looking at the details, l could tell that the man is a working man. He puts his car to work and is dressed in working clothes.

THE FOUR LONELY TRASH BAGS – Broadway & Imperial, October 2020. In this photo, you can see a trashy empty field. By looking at this photo I can see the opposite of what I see every day. I see a lonely street with parked cars and no cars on the freeway. I see parked trailers and cars. I see four lonely trash bags that seem to be waiting to get picked up. One of them looks very excited to leave this lonely space.

LADY ON THE BIKE – Main & 109th, November 2020. In this photo, you can see a dirty liquor store. By looking at this photo you can see a lady enjoying her day out on her bike wearing her mask because that is our normal life now. The streets are empty. A lot of people are staying at home. The only crowded places are our testing sites.

DREAMING – Avalon & 103, November 2020. In this photo, you see a tree. When I look at this photo, I feel like I’m in a dream. I see the reflection of the sunlight on the van. I see a tree bringing up the sidewalk because its roots are growing. I see a tipped-over shopping cart. I see painting on the wall, but this is normal life for me. This is what I see every day in my community.


MaryJane Joya, 13

Hello, My name is MaryJane Joya. I am thirteen years old and I attend Synergy Kinetic Academy. I am a fun, loud, and creative individual. In the future, I would like to be a famous photographer whose photographs are always in people’s minds. My family and friends are my main support for following my dreams. The photographs I take always have a story behind them, even if it looks like there is none.

200 B.C. (THE YEAR THE CANDLES WERE MADE) – “Go within every day and find the inner strength, so that the world cannot blow your candle out .” – Katherine Dunham.

In this photo, my sister was trying so hard to get the smoke from the candle, inside the jar. Even though it didn’t work out, I still was able to capture her sadness from not getting the shot.

EMOCIONES/EMOTIONS – “Not all storms come to disrupt your life, some come to clear your path.” -Unknown.

This photo came about when my sister was being dramatic and threw her hand on the wall. While I played with the light, she told me to take a photo because it would look nice. I used one hand for the lights, to me, it looked like she was reaching for help or maybe even falling. I loved the colors cause it showed different colors/emotions even when you think it is just one emotion/color.

BLURRED VISIONS – “I think too much, I see too much, I feel too much, but I speak so little.” – Unknown.

I loved the blur. The blur represents the way I think because it often feels messy. This quote means a lot to me because it describes my sister. She frequently tells me that she wishes she could say what she’s thinking, but she can’t say it out loud. It makes her feel bad about herself, which hurts me.

ABSENT-MINDED/INATTENTIVE/OUT IN SPACE/LOST IN THOUGHT –  “Here we go again with your mixed signals and my second thoughts.¨ -Unknown

You can go as far as your mind lets you.”- Unknown

This photo can evoke different emotions, and either quote could fit the photo. Depending on your mood, either of these quotes could speak to you. The decision is left up to the viewer.

THE THREE STAGES –

”The thing everyone should realize is that the key to happiness is being happy by yourself and for yourself.” – Ellen DeGeneres.

“Anger doesn’t solve anything, it builds nothing, but it can destroy everything.” -Unknown.

“It’s ok to cry, Sunshine. Cause every now and then we all need the rain.” -Unknown.

My sisters and I were at home and my youngest sister was making us laugh with her facial expressions. These were the best moments I captured having fun with my sisters.

 

My photos explain the meanings of emotions through colors. I chose to take these photos because it represents how emotions can come and take over one’s body, face, mind, and surroundings. It also represents how one person can feel more than one emotion at a time. With each image I take, I see a different story— a story that I had brought to life through photography. To me, this means a lot more than a story, and feeling something more than anything I can explain. I thank my sisters for helping me cause I know they feel those ways sometimes, just like we all do. I hope that after you see my photos, you can feel more in-depth with your feelings and relate to most of my photos.

NURTURE – ”Keep watering yourself, you’re growing.” – E.Russell.

This reminds me of when you’re feeling down and you tell your parents that you don’t feel like you’re good enough so they give you a serious look. This look that they give, is stern because they believe we are good enough and want us to believe it too. I named this photo “nurture” because of the look she’s giving to the viewer as if she is going to give a loving, serious talk.

INSANITY – “I don’t go crazy. I am crazy. I just go normal from time to time.” – Harley Quinn.

As I was directing my sister to pose, she started to play around. I started to laugh as I took the photo which caused the camera to shake and created a dreamy effect. The blur wasn’t intentional but made the image stronger.

DIASSOCIATIVE – “Some days, she has no idea how´ll she´ll do it. But every single day, it still gets done.” – Unknown.

For this photo, I had trouble thinking of a name until I asked my sister how she felt during the shoot. She said she felt disassociated, meaning it is a break in how your mind handles information. It’s a disconnection from your thoughts, feelings, memories, and surroundings. After she said it, I thought it fit well with the mood of the photograph.“I think too much, I see too much, I feel too much, but I speak so little.”- Unknown. I loved the blur. The blur represents the way I think because it often feels messy. This quote means a lot to me because it describes my sister. She frequently tells me that she wishes she could say what she’s thinking, but she can’t say it out loud. It makes her feel bad about herself, which hurts me.

AUTHORITARIAN/ILLIBERAL/UNYEILDING – “Educating the mind without educating the heart is no education at all.” – Aristotle.

I took this when I was directing my sister to relax and just pose so I could take the photo. I thought this pose was perfect. She looked like she was passionate, bored, hard-headed, and a bit motivated.

SHADOWS/DARKNESS – “So long as you fight the darkness, you stand in the light.”- Sabaa Tahir.

“The dark does not destroy the light; it defines it. It’s our fear of the dark that casts our joy into the shadows.” -Brene Brown.

I loved this photo because it showed that behind the darkness, there is a person. Sometimes people aren’t happy or sad but are feeling something in the middle.


Mikaela Foronda Zanipatin, 16

My name is Mikaela Foronda. I am a 16-year-old junior at the Archer School for Girls in Brentwood, CA. I live in Los Feliz with my family and younger sister, Danilka. One characteristic I like about myself is that I am very compassionate and always wanting to help others whether that means helping people through my social advocacy work or just simply checking in on my family and close friends to see how they are doing. I hope through my photography, I can help represent people who come from marginalized communities and can help better represent countries in Latin America such as Bolivia and Ecuador that aren’t showcased or appreciated by larger audiences.

In terms of some of the artwork I’ve done, I have created and worked with several different styles of art such as ceramics, 3D printing, collage, and zine-making throughout my high school career. I am also training as a dancer at my school through the dance troupe and am serving on the dance leadership team as costume coordinator for our upcoming performance. I am excited to continue improving my photography skills by making creative artwork that represents my authentic self and that can make an impact on someone or something in the world someday.

My final project is called Las Mujeres Poderosas and it is essentially about the differences and similarities between my mom, sister, and I as Latina women. My intent for this project is to showcase the powerful female leaders in my family and through this, I hope to inspire and uplift other women by showing them how powerfully and beautifully we can express ourselves.

MAMÍ IN THE KITCHEN – My mamí stopped rearranging the silverware in our kitchen to smile at the camera. She was happy at the time I took the picture because we had just arrived back in Northern California, and she had a much larger kitchen to work with to make dinner. Seeing her cooking and putting thought into her food makes me happy because she enjoys cooking so much and always looks forward to trying new recipes.

I DON’T CARE – My sister Danilka let her self expression run free as she struck a pose for the camera. The way her upper body is positioned helps show her attitude and creativity after I told her to make any pose she wanted. I used a regular desk lamp as my light source in my DIY studio at home and did my best to play with the light and capture shadows.

 

DREAMING – This picture is a self-portrait of me gazing into the camera. I didn’t intend to take a proper picture at the time, but I liked the picture so much that I decided to include it in my project. I believe this picture captures who I am as a person in my natural state without me appearing in an exaggerated way or as something that I’m not. Although I am always thinking about all sorts of things, I am hopeful that my dreams and aspirations for the future will come true someday after putting in the hard work and staying determined.

RECUERDOS – This year, my family and I set up an ofrenda on our kitchen table for Día de Los Muertos. The picture on the ofrenda is a close-up shot of my grandma and me at my baptism party when I was a year old. In the background, there is a Bolivian flute, a candle to remember my grandma who passed a year and a half ago, and a rosary that was given to me at my quinceañera. I love that I can represent the beauty of my Bolivian culture and highlight each object which has its special meaning.

JUST SITTING THERE – I often am hesitant to take pictures of myself but I had a lot of fun taking pictures in my room. My room is a space I have had a love-hate relationship with throughout my time in high school because my room contains many things from my childhood that I have tried to get rid of as an attempt to grow into my own person and develop my sense of style. The vivid pink wall behind me represents the childlike side that is still within me while the confidence in my body shows how far I’ve come in my journey against battling my anxiety.

LA MUJER PERSISTENTE – After a long day, my mamí continued to do work on her computer to make sure that everything was in order before she stopped for the night. In the past, she has decorated the back of her computer with stickers of issues she is passionate about such as fighting for immigrant’s rights or giving back to UC Berkeley. She received these stickers from working with organizations she has partnered up with and usually always brings my sister and me some stickers to decorate our computers with. Her passion for helping others in the Latino community has inspired me to care deeply about working towards social change and doing what is right for other less fortunate people.

LA CALLE 23 Y LA MISIÓN – During my stay in northern California, I went to San Francisco for the first time this year with my family where I decided to practice my photography and explore the city. We decided to visit the Mission District, which is one of our favorite places to go because it is full of Latino culture and amazing food. Because there are so many outdoor markets, I wanted to capture a sideways image of the viewer looking out at the street and watching people walking by to offer a different perspective. People can experience the vibrant color and smell of the food while they walk past the market or stop to look.

NEW MEXICAN CHILE – My mom held out her hand as she sprinkled seasoning over la sopa de albondigas or meatball soup. At the time, she was preparing a soup at my grandpa’s house so everyone could come together and eat a yummy meal with each other. One of my mom’s favorite things to do is cook in her free time because it makes her happy when people enjoy her food, and it helps her express her creative side.

SKATER GIRL CHILLIN’ ON HER BOARD – Late in the afternoon on a Saturday, my sister and I went to the skate park to hang out with each other and take pictures. In this picture, she is sitting on her skateboard and resting her feet on the skateboard ramp. Before taking the shot, she was scooting back and forth on her board like she used to do when she was a little kid.

FEELING SAFE – The soft lighting in my mom’s room always makes me feel comfortable whenever I’m studying for school or doing work. I feel that I am able to stay focused and that I have found a place in my house where I can relax and recharge during these challenging times.

Las Mujeres Poderosas is also reflective of my Central and South American background and includes pictures of certain customs, traditions, and cultural pieces that hold a lot of meaning to me. One of my main goals or insights that I hope audiences take away from my pictures is that they are creative in my own personal way and have each been created with purposeful intent and meaning. I want people to see that confident, independent women exist in this world and are needed now more than ever to serve as leaders.


Valeria Hernandez, 16

Through my teenage years, I have been able to explore different art forms and have found a passion of mine in photography. Photography makes me feel like I can express the beauty in moments around me, document moments I want to keep alive and bring awareness to issues that are important to me. An equal passion of mine is helping people and being active in current-day issues. In the future, I hope to continue helping people by protesting, pursuing a career in which I can represent those whose voices have not been heard, and use my photography to bring attention to peoples’ stories. I also hope to travel to El Salvador to connect more with my culture and create a photo project about the country my parents are from. Las Fotos Project has overall played a major role in my life and has opened up room for my creativity to flourish and represent a part of who I am.

HEALING – At first, I was afraid of my depression and I didn’t know how to see myself after being diagnosed. Since then, I’ve learned that depression does not make up my entirety, and there is so much hope for healing. There are people that love me and support me through everything and I am growing to love myself and feel complete.

MI CUERPO ES MI CUERPO – To my mom: I love you. I appreciate the woman you are and the person you raised me to be. But, my body will always be my own. My body hair is my choice and it is staying if I want it to stay, Má.

MY BODY’S MADE OF CRUSHED LITTLE STARS – I never appreciated my legs until someone that was in my life opened my own eyes to their beauty. I always wanted to turn away from the scars that covered them and got embarrassed when I felt someone was looking down at them. But you taught me to love them, to recognize the beauty and uniqueness they hold. My legs wouldn’t be my legs without my scars, so thank you.

HOUSE – A real home is my family: my mom, dad, Natalie, Priscilla, my dogs, and my friends. I used to feel like “home” was one person, but home is all of this. It’s my body that is constantly changing. The love from those that stay by my side. As long as this love remains, I will always be home. As I have gotten older, I have outgrown the separation anxiety I had with my father. I see my dad now as more than just a father figure, but as his own person, as I am. Growing older has taught me that independence does not mean loneliness because those people will still always be there.

MÁ – My mom believes that her beauty doesn’t exist when she is tired. She works hard, comes home, takes off her makeup from the day, and finally rests. Capturing my mother in a moment when she does not believe she looks beautiful shows me how truly beautiful she is all the time.

SOULMATES – I have learned that soulmates are not only romantic partners. My soulmates are my best friends— Hannah, Erin, and Nayeli make me feel at home and accepted. Each of them unique in their own way has watched me grow and are a big reason for my growth.

My final project, titled Agua de Mis Raíces, explores the elements in my life that have made up who I am: my friends, my family, my neighborhood, and the place I have called home for most of my life.

These elements have contributed to the exploration of myself, helping me learn to love both my mind and body. My connection to self and space has flourished into something I never had before. This project represents how the places and people around me have nourished my growth, being the agua de mis raíces

MY RECORD PLAYER – Sounds and words flow through my room and linger in the air. I never knew if I could use my record player again because of the absent feeling of the person who gave it to me, but buying my own records, the excitement of them arriving, that feeling is so amazing.

HOUSE AND ME – Me voy de casa.

DON’T CUT HER DOWN – El arbol alto is something my parents have always been fearful of. “Y si tiembla se va caller,” if there is an earthquake it will fall. But, I wouldn’t be able to recognize my home without this tree. She is tall and hovers over us. She has been living in my front yard for a long time and will continue to be rooted there after I am gone.

WHAT MY ROOM HOLDS – The walls of my room hold me in my place. I can look out of its windows, let the light in when I want it, and shut it out when I don’t. It’s here for me to finally rest at night and holds the sounds of my cries and laughter. I am always thankful for my room because it brings me back to myself when I can’t find where I am.


Veronica Nuñez, 16

Hi, I’m Veronica Nuñez and I’m 16 years old. I was born and raised in Los Angeles and at the moment I live in Eagle Rock and I’m a junior at Eagle Rock High school. Some adjectives that my friends and family would use to describe me are calm, happy, kind, silly, and ambitious. When I grow up I want to be a billion things and I’m pretty indecisive but I would love to be a pediatrician or a teacher. I believe both of those jobs can help me give back to the world since the world has given me so much and I would love to have a job that can leave a good impact on people’s lives. My dad and mom are my biggest inspirations because they have sacrificed so much for my sisters and me so we can follow our dreams— This has inspired me to do my best. My older sister Gabby is one of my biggest inspirations because of how driven she is to do so much change in the world and how she has never given up. Photography brings so much into my life. It brings me peace and gives me the chance to see the world differently. Photography gives me an outlet to express myself. By looking at the world through a lens, it lets me choose what I want to see and what I don’t want to see.

My photo project “Then and Now” focuses on my family. This project lets them look back and reflect on old family photos. I am remaking these photos now and seeing how they feel and if they feel the same way. I want others to see how much people can change throughout the years and how when you look back, you can see a difference from yourself then and now. I want others to feel the emotion that is felt and shown in both the original photo and the remake.

THE VERONICAS – Sunland Park, 2005/ New photo: Living room, 2020. I was named after my wonderful mother, who is the strongest person I know. She is someone who will keep me in check and love me the most. I love you Mami, everything I have accomplished is for you and Papi.

ME – Old Photo: School Photo, 2010/ New Photo: My room, 2020. (Interview with myself) When I look back at the old of myself, I see someone who was sad, alone, and lost in this big world. I felt so out of place and lost with both friends and family, and now I’ve found myself.

DAY AT THE BEACH – Old photo: El Capitan State Beach, 2002/ New Photo: Living room, 2020. (From an interview with my mom) We were struggling during those times. Trying to provide for your sister and keeping a roof over her head. This day made us forget all that it was just quality family time. We now have you, Sammy, and Gabby and there were dark times but the happiness overcame the darkness and lit the room for our family.

THE EVOLUTION OF SAMMY – Old photo: Preschool, 2012/New Photo: Sammy’s room, 2020. (From an interview with younger sister Sammy) I’ve grown up. I now know who I am and who I want to be and the preschool photo was something I started with but this new photo truly represents me and shows how much I have changed these past 12 years.

GABRIELA – Old apartment, 2002/ New photo: Living room, 2020. Gabs, Gabby, and Gabbigator, where has the time gone.

SAY CHEESE – Old Photo: Apartment, 2008/ New Photo: Living room, 2020. (Interview with my mom) You were playing with the brand new camera we just got and you brought it up to me and said: “Say cheese!”

SAMMY AND VERITO – Old Photo: Apartment, 2008 New Photo: Sammy’s Room, 2020. We have been inseparable since Sammy was born and we’ve always had a strong bond. It’s like we can read each other’s minds and know how we’re feeling because we are so close. She’s my best friend and my sister— we like a 2 in 1.

NUÑEZ GALS – Olive Garden, 2010/ New photo: Living room, 2020. My sisters and I are so different but yet we still click. Gabby is the smart one, I’m the creative one, and Sammy is in her own category. We can go from fighting to joking about something in just 5 minutes. It’s what we call sisterly love.

We all grow up and change the way we think, feel, and more, and I want to show that through photographs of my family. To me, my family is everything. I’m very family-oriented. I believe it’s important to capture moments with your family because of how precious and valuable time is. You won’t be able to relive that moment if you don’t document the emotion and feeling you have unless you take a photograph of the moment. You will learn my family’s perspective in the image and how emotional, crazy, fun, loving, and exciting my family is, and how close we all are. You will see how photos can tell my family’s story and will take you on a rollercoaster.

Las Fotos Project has helped with so much of my photography skills. I learned how I love to take monochrome photos. It has also made me see my family differently by letting me take photos of them and showing what I want to show. I love being an artist. The best part is being able to truly be me and I’m always able to express my true emotions

A special thank you to our funding partners: The Annenberg Foundation, Adobe/Taking It Global, CA Arts Council, Department of Cultural Affairs, the Yerba Buena Fund, S Mark Taper Foundation, Phillip and Edith Leonian Foundation, PayPal, The Edward A and AI O Shay Family Foundation and the Goldsmith Foundation