Note: This virtual exhibition is best viewed on a desktop.

Featuring

Amber Linares-Vasquez
Angel Mia Torres
Aster Sanchez
Betsy Mariano Bonilla
Esmeralda Estrada
Gisselle Tlacuatl
Julieta Littin

Leilah Rosado
Mia Figueroa
Mia Peña
Michelle Montenegro
Myla Aranda
Natalia Barajas
Sofia Unkovskaia

Teaching Artists: Evelyn Hang Yin, Royal Scales

Mentors: Alexa Montesa, Blessie Escamilla, Collin Hughart, Diego Torres-Casso, Kelly Chou, Louis Heilbronn, Lua Kobayashi, Mayán Alvarado-Goldberg, Megan Pennings, Natalia Angeles, Savannah Condon, Sydney Krantz, Veronica Rafael-Pavan

Esta Soy Yo: I Am hoME

Our Esta Soy Yo classes introduce students to self-expression through photography. This semester saw the progression of students’ perspectives and creative voices. Through introspection and photography, students were given a space where they began to analyze the intersectionality of their identities. This exhibition provides a glimpse of how our students see themselves and what self-health means to them. The images that follow represent a 16-week journey of 24 students as they navigated through the landscape of self-expression with the help of 12 mentors and 2 teaching artists. Like many of us have experienced over the past year, our students have begun to look at what self-health has meant to them and where they gain their strength and stability. For some students that took the form of family and friends and for others it manifested in their immediate surroundings and the places they were able to move through.

I Am HoMe takes a look into our students’ safety nets and the places their identity meld with. Capturing moments of value to them and presenting them here, creates a space that acknowledges their journey and seeks to uplift their growth. Students’ work reflects the connection in using photographic elements to uplift, highlight, and draw attention to their families, themselves, their communities, and the spaces around them that have had a role in shaping their identities. HoMe delves into more advanced photography as returning and more experienced students reflect on their identities and their self-health. The collection of images show each student’s control of light, composition, and color to present their unique creative visions.

From self-portraits to inanimate objects to landscapes and other public spaces, the ‘sevles’ presented by our students exemplify the complexity and beauty of identities and where we feel comfort and safety.

 

Content Warning: Some of our student projects contain descriptions of self-harm, death and suicide.


Driver’s Permit, 2021

Self-portrait in the front seat of my friend’s car. This picture symbolizes my independence now that I have my driver’s permit. Using the rearview mirror, I captured my body in the front seat, a place that makes me feel powerful as I have the power to go anywhere.

reflection

I purposely chose this photo because it shows my relationship with myself. Setting the camera in front of the mirror, I want to display how I often think about how I appear to others, and how they perceive me.

Second Dose, 2021

My mother getting her second vaccine. An organization called CIELO was able to provide us, and other indigenous communities in Los Angeles, with free vaccinations. They also gave us free masks, food, and other essentials. This is in keeping in line with the values of indigenous cultures: sharing, reciprocity, and extended community.

Amber

My favorite photos are the ones that capture motion in action. I like the blurry, out-of-focus look that makes the audience focus on what is in the photo. In this picture, I especially like the warm, amber ambient emitted by the bottom right corner. Playing around with shutter speed and ISO was the most exciting part of taking photos.

Amber Linares-Vasquez, 18

Puedes trenzar mi cabello?

My mother’s hands at work as she braids her hair at home. Her fingers are swift as she wraps one strand around another, creating a delicate chain. These are the same hands that braid my hair morning and night ever since I was a child.


This is a photo of the train at Moorpark train station. For me, the train and the passenger symbolize my grandfather because like trains, my grandpa would come and go. Even though his death was a permanent “go,” the train continues to represent his presence. When the train arrives and leaves the station, I still think of grandpa.

I photographed the same train from different angles with different lighting to represent the different sides of my grandpa, both good and bad. My grandpa was very stubborn at times. Once he had an appointment for his cancer and he refused to leave the car. It was very frustrating for my family. Nonetheless, he would always show up for his family at events to cheer them on and support them.

This photo is of a train station in Oxnard, where my grandpa lived for many years. The same concept of a train station but in a new location serves as a metaphor for my grandpa’s death because although he will always be the same person, he is now in a new place.

My grandma is holding a portrait of my grandpa to represent her holding his memory. She was very present in the process of his death and cared so much about him. Despite having a hard time throughout his sickness and her own health needs, she still treasures his memory and takes steps to honor him like visiting the cemetery every day and cleaning his grave.

Angel Mia Torres, 13

During the day, my grandpa used to spend a lot of time on his front porch. If he wasn’t inside, he was walking or in the alleyway or just sitting on the porch. My grandma continues to tend to the roses on the front porch, and when I am there I can almost feel his presence and sometimes I forget he’s not there, but I try to catch myself before slipping up and accidentally saying his name.


Aster Sanchez, 16

I’ve always enjoyed being in my bed surrounded by stuffed animals. They give me company, safety, and a sense of comfort. They’ve been with me through the ups and downs and times where I’ve needed something to cuddle. I love being able to sleep with them and to wake up with them after a difficult night. They allow me to relive my childhood again and ignore the troubles of life for just a bit.

I love and admire flowers so much. They make me feel so happy and I’m so excited to discover more of them. They’re all unique in their own special way but they all reflect one thing – beauty. I’ve seen so many beautiful flowers but my favorite are roses. The beauty whenever I capture photos of them makes my heart feel a sense of warmth and comfort.

I’ve never enjoyed putting myself in front of the camera, but I’m able to by placing objects in front of my face. It’s fun being able to show myself in the different objects I hide behind and still share a message about who I am. The personal objects that we choose to shield ourselves with can tell others a lot about us without us having to use any words.

I’ve battled with self-harm for almost 4 years and am finally recovering from it. There are moments where sharp objects have triggered me, but the scissors are a reminder that I’m no longer in that negative mindset. I’ve been lucky to have support from someone who makes it easier to keep going. They’re the reminder I have that it’s okay to fall down sometimes but to always get back up again.

There have been many eyes aimed at me whether they’re family, friends, or strangers. I can always feel and see their eyes when I look at my own reflection. I feel exhausted & like I need to do everything perfectly. I wanted to make it seem like the eyes are leaving – to turn them into something I can handle. They might not ever truly leave but at least I can make them feel less worrisome.


Betsy Mariano Bonilla, 17

She gives us freedom and visibility
Giving us smiles in life
In rain and shine
She’s beautiful and her name is
Mother Nature

In the spring I went to a beach near Santa Monica with my mom, brothers, and my dog. I usually don’t like going to the beach, but on this particular occasion I finally gave in. Being at the beach made me realize how beautiful it was. I chose to overlay these pictures because I wanted the background landscape to pop out. I added my siblings because it showed their happiness every time we went.

Wearing a blue dress
Feeling like fifteen again
Blow the candles out

She’s my best friend,
A friend who never left my side
Took me as her son…
I’m her happiness
And shoe eater

-Toby

2018, the year I had my heart filled up
Not from love but from music
Feels like a warm hug every time I press play


Time goes by as I think
3, 2, 1

3 notes
2 hours
1 attempt

At the age of 14, I laid on my floor writing 3 notes to my loved ones.
I spent 2 hours crying, screaming on the inside, scared, and alone.
That night was my first attempt at committing suicide.

‘Going through a storm’ is what I would describe the inside of my head like.
Thoughts coming but not going.
Emotions all over the place.
My mind is the one thing that never stops moving.

Over time I was not eating. I was pulling out my hair, crying myself to sleep, skipping class, and failing classes. It was so bad I started to harm myself every day. “Do you think you will benefit from therapy?” This is the question that changed my life.

Every Thursday afternoon at 12:30 pm
I learned how to better cope with things
I learned how to be the best version of myself
Every Thursday afternoon at 12:30 pm
I learned how to overcome my problems
I learned how to get to the other side of the mountains
Every Thursday afternoon at 12:30 pm
Was all about helping me become me again.

Esmeralda Estrada, 16

May 6, 2021 is one of the most important dates of my life. On that day I finished my therapy sessions and it was the best feeling ever.

On that day I felt like myself again. On that day I knew that everything was okay for once. Everyone is worthy and everyone can make it through. I am LIVING PROOF that everything will be better. I never once said it was easy but it is worth fighting for.


Gisselle Tlacuatl, 17

It was sunny but not cold, but the wind was still breezing in through the bathroom window, making the curtain move. My cousins had just finished cutting my other cousin’s hair. I was supposed to help out but I didn’t. It was on a Tuesday afternoon when I took this picture and I was about to go on spring break.

I took a picture of the clock in the bedroom, around 4 or 5 pm. My favorite part of the image is the blur because it’s not perfectly still and it gives it a bit of life. I chose to take this photo because of the clock and its unique shape.

I noticed there was a flower above the sink. I think it was around noon and I finished class. The sun pointed at the flower making it stand out, it looked lonely. I chose this image because it reminded me of my mom and how much she likes flowers.

I did not go out on Sunday, so I decided to take a picture of my plant that sits in the window. I did not succeed in taking the shot that I wanted but I ended up with this photo of a different view of my plant. The jar reminds me of the times me and my mom made lasagna.

I had just become a bit more comfortable with me being in front of the camera. My mom and aunt were talking about their family in Mexico and I just finished eating. I tried to experiment with long exposure and different color lighting. I chose this image because it’s the only photo that came out like this.


And Earth keeps on rotating away

Just as the image itself, my mind often starts spinning. I wonder where. Do our thoughts move alongside the Earth’s motion? Do they ever leave my body? Are they even within my body?… quickly these questions tangle me, and I get overwhelmed. I let myself float away. Meanwhile, our planet keeps rotating through space and our timelines on this world evolve along the universal cycle simultaneously.

The ground is my tendency to Love
when I am in nature,
majority of the time
I enter into this realm
with no peace in mind
and it seems that I get purified every time
from the moment my feet touch the ground.
It is said that when you walk barefoot on the Earth,
the exchange of electrons between it and yourself
occurs right
Away.

Caminante No Hay Camino

This is me, playing outside, with a mirror and my reflection in the middle of my school day. Normally, at this time, I would instead be in a classroom. I wonder: Where will I be learning a year from now? This quote has stayed with me, “In times of change, learners inherit the earth while the learned find themselves beautifully equipped to deal with the world that no longer exists¨. Eric Hoffer

We are Nature and Nature is Us!

Our human bodies are a bridge, a vector, and a source of equilibrium between our primitive life (the natural world) and our modern technological reality. The input of energy we expend on each side must be equal to maintain a balance within the whole. We are living organisms, made up of the same elements and energy nature is created from. Connecting with her makes me feel whole, makes me feel alive.

Julieta Littin, 16

Being or Becoming?

We have different faces… many phases, personalities, thoughts, emotions. As one of these characteristics begins to leave the body, another young but more mature layer waits underneath. Eventually, a different seed we’ve planted will germinate, grow, and live. If life truly follows this pattern, the only thing to do is sit and enjoy what we see; but most importantly would be to sow the right seed.


Leilah Rosado, 14

Probably my favorite song by the Cure, I like how Lullaby sounds and everything about it is good. I like how I captured the picture at 5:55 PM and it was May 5th. I listen to music every day.

Every time I listen to music I always have earbuds or AirPods. I think wearing them gives a full experience of hearing the music clearly and having them in my ears helps distract me when I’m feeling upset or sad.

When I am listening to music I get lost in the sound and connect to the lyrics. In this moment I was listening to 505 by the Arctic Monkeys. I really like how that song has many feelings and I like the timestamp 2:30 which’s probably my favorite part of the song.

I’ve been listening to new music recently and I really enjoy it but I think this song has been stuck in my head the most.

I just took this photo when I was listening to some music and I somewhat enjoy taking self-portraits. I just like them when they are blurry or in motion. In this picture, I was listening to Nirvana.


Splashing Night Baths

My sister took a late-night bath. All I could remember was her splashing water like crazy, and having fun playing with her toys.

Curly blue shade

Relaxing after a long day of having fun in the sun.

Copying Conversations

They both told each other they were hungry by pointing at their stomach. Moments like these reflect who I am in the family, and help me connect with myself and my siblings.

Outside Water Music

On a hot day, my brother was excited to play with water outside. The music was playing, yet I can still hear the laughs of my siblings.

Mia Figueroa, 14

Loud Blue Fun

I remember when I took these pictures it was very loud. My cousin was sitting in a basket while I was pushing him around and the only thing that stood out was his blue shirt.


Mia Peña, 16

16 years of life packed into boxes. I don’t remember when she became mine. Placed and forgotten in my room by my mother, she watched over me. She held my belongings and watched as day turned into night. My eyes glued to the window, watching as the sun began to set behind the palm trees. Perhaps she too wished to witness the beauty of pink and blue fading together to create the sunset light.

The last look at a room that was only mine for three months. I made it mine, all mine – passed along by siblings like everything else. A room filled with memories now empty despite the clutter of my past. The golden hour always made me the happiest, streaks of orange shining through the windows. Warmth lacked as I reminisced on how quickly I made this space feel like home, an admirable human action.

I once read in a book that with each picture that is taken of you, a bit of your time on earth is taken away as well. That used to terrify me as if each time a picture of me was taken it would steal some of the life I had in my body. Though that is the purpose of photography is it not? To encapsulate a memory, a fleeting moment, before the world resumes again before life resumes again?I once read in a book that with each picture that is taken of you, a bit of your time on earth is taken away as well. That used to terrify me as if each time a picture of me was taken it would steal some of the life I had in my body. Though that is the purpose of photography is it not? To encapsulate a memory, a fleeting moment, before the world resumes again before life resumes again?

My grandmother resided in this bedroom for almost ten years. She would tell me to make sure not a single speck of light entered the room as night came by fixing the curtains and I adopted her habits well after her passing. The yellow light was the only exception, it guided her when she would awaken in the middle of the night. Not even that light comforted me as my fear of the dark grew.

My favorite color is purple, but I’ve grown to love orange, red, blue, and yellow. This is my childhood home, a backyard I’ve run and fallen in countless times. In the backyard my childhood dog was buried. I never felt more connected to this home than I did at this moment when the world seemed to be quiet and still. I’ve seen it in all sorts of lighting, but this made me feel warm – this is my home.


Michelle Montenegro, 17

A lot of my identity is built off of where I come from. My parents emigrated from Guatemala to LA. I have many great memories from my apartment on Serrano/8th. Everyone knew everyone, and it felt like home. In middle school, we made a big move up toward the SFV. Initially, I was upset, but I now have a great appreciation for the beautiful community, culture, and opportunities I’ve come across.

A lot was going on in 2020/early 2021. Aside from the pandemic, I was dealing with my personal struggles. I felt sad all the time and stopped taking care of myself. I began journaling to release my thoughts without burdening others. I included some journal entries in this photo because I wanted to show that vulnerability and talking to others about how you feel is not weakness.

I have my Mami’s hands. Long, brown, boney, veiny with a crooked pinky on each hand. My Mami makes the best food with her hands. My Mami me persina with her hands. My Mami cleans houses with her hands. My Mami has her mom’s hands. My hands carry the strength and resilience of all those that have come before me. They remind me of my mom, the most beautiful person I know.

Fridges are like unintentional collages. They tell so much about people without even having a conversation. Art has been one of the most important and consistent things throughout my life. Whether it be dance, photography or clothes, etc., it’s given me an outlet to express myself. This white fridge, a hand-me-down from my madrina, is a collective art piece from my family and me.

My dad is an observer. He is quiet and reserved. His wisdom has taught me a lot about myself and the most important life lesson I’ve learned so far. Nothing is ever mine to keep. Everyone and everything has their time. Connection and attachment. I am connected to everything and attached to nothing.


Thursday, January 25, 2021 (6:44 PM)- “Me and the tree”

Everyday, when I arrived home, I would take a picture of this tree. It reminded me of myself because it seemed to always look moody. Dejected. Exhausted. It looked as if it were alive but dead. As if it were living life but letting life pass by it at the same time. And this tree always faced the moon in hopes it would talk back someday. Talking to the moon and falling in love with it because it was there every night to listen. It was the only thing in its life that felt comforting and warm. I lived a life full of pessimism like this tree because I allowed myself to let others pour their pain onto me. I allowed myself to deal with their emotions and their pain. I had so much disappointment in myself that I began to isolate- since I felt as if I was never going to be good enough. Fortunately, I had learned how to transpire that emotional wrath into something beautiful. I had noticed things just kept naturally mending themselves like my fissured mind. One half desired to loathe on my past as the other half was attempting to pull everything together. As if it were attempting to correct my mind as a whole. I would experience intense, frustrating moments where I would dwell into these black holes in which I felt confined in the darkness, but woefully was okay with it. And unexpectedly, a gratifying occurrence would transpire, and my emotions would fall back to a state of calmness and ease. I guess everything really is just temporary if you choose to think that way. My mentality is my reality and I never knew that I could shape it by the perspective of my mind and heart. And like the tree, I will only grow and blossom if I am watered by the right people and things in my life.
Thanks for listening Diary.

Sunday, March 21, 2021 (1:51 PM)- “Reflection from a tin hat”

A reflection from a tin hat I will never be able to view beyond myself as the mirror is a never ending reflection of oneself. We limit the mind through black and white, but there is more beyond that through the color that slips off our palms and tongues to the eye of the beholder. Each breath is an inhale of life and only we embed that true nature of love for our own peace of mind in our hearts. See ya next time Diary.

Friday, March 26, 2021 (11:55 AM)- “Thoughts thinking thoughts”

An endless loop. An endless cycle that maybe one day I’ll be able to break away. I’m just getting buried by these spirals. And eventually will get sucked in and spit back out into reality. Thoughts thinking thoughts…
Thanks for being here to listen to Diary.

Thursday, April 15, 2021 (2:10 PM)- “Heartbreak in a metro”

It hurt. I had let the pain dwell inside me for so long. And at times I still found myself loathing it. I was hoping the smoke would take my problems away with the wind. Each inhale was a breath I took with you. I lie down on the grass; hear the train pass by. And yet, I still felt the same ache. But as time went on I slowly became the person who I was meant to be again. It hurts less now that you’re gone.
See ya, Diary.

Myla Aranda, 17

Sunday, April 26, 2021 (4:05 PM)- “I have learned to love my own”

Solitude has been a never ending struggle for the human race. We are so caught up in not wanting to ever be alone that we tend to forget who we truly are when we are by oneself. We allow our ego to devour us up only to split our mind and heart. Chasing two opposite things into two opposite directions. We become numb. We become confused. We simply become lost. Then there is an absence of love for oneself, and the only way we return is by letting that ego die. And when that time comes, you will transform into the best version of yourself. You will continue blossoming into the person you are meant to be and not what others perceive you as. After all, this is just a state of consciousness in which we all control our own reality through our mind and hearts only if we embed that mentality within us; as we connect with others, the dirt of the earth, and back into our souls for our own inner composure. Thankfully I have learned to love my own.
Bye bye Diary.


Natalia Barajas, 13

This image looks like a scene in a Christmas or a Home Alone movie. It also looks like a Christmas card that has a snowglobe in the background.

This picture reminds me of a dark snowy night. I went to Denver, Colorado to visit some family that lives over there. It was cold and snowing really hard.

My sister was playing with the snow. My dad was standing there waiting for her to come in through the door. It was really dark and cold, but they were really happy.

My sister likes to make funny and scrunched-up faces. One day, we were looking at my pictures together, and she said, “Why don’t you take photos of me!” She then became the model of my photoshoot. The photos turned out pretty good, although she asked me afterward, “Why does my hair look so messy?”

When people are in love they lose their heads for each other and that was going through my mind when I took this photo.


Newspaper

I walked around the museum and saw that the museum staff were reading the newspaper. I really like the composition of this photo. Space is competently filled on the right with the painting, on the left with the museum staff.

Couple

On the way to the museum, I saw this cute couple, they seemed so dear to me, they know everything about each other, all the secrets, they know about each other both good and bad, but it doesn’t matter how many years will pass they are together anyway.

Light and shadow

I am a big lover of classical music. Mozart and Chopin will always be the best composers for me. While walking in the park, I heard «a Little Night Music» being played, one of Mozart’s most famous compositions. I was so carried away listening to their game that I completely forgot about the world around me.

Smiling drummer

This spring I was in New York. One of my favorite places in New York is Central Park. It always breathes light and fresh there. It is also a place where street artists and musicians show their talents. On that day, I saw a drummer who was enjoying playing so much that he was completely sanctified with happiness and I could not help capturing this moment.

Sofia Unkovskaia, 17

Friend

This photo is of my friend. We met a year ago, during this time we became very close. Every weekend I hang out or have fun somewhere. However, next year she will leave for college, I am very happy for her and I want her to achieve everything she wants, but I will miss her.