Imprints was developed during the spring of 2019, with nine Las Fotos Project teen photographers exploring the question: “Who motivates you to be your best self?” 

The photographers identified girls and young women in their lives who have influenced the way they connect with the world and immersed themselves in the worlds of their subject — at times they shadowed their subjects to capture their most candid moments, while at other times collaborated with them to compose an expressive image. They pushed beyond traditional portraiture to reveal more about their subject by focusing on their belongings, the spaces they inhabit, or fragments of themselves that define who they are.

Imprints is a chronicle of young sisterhood – bringing light to the relationships formed that leave a mark on their creative and personal identities. It’s through their personal and photographic exploration that Imprints is able to capture joy, tenderness, and vulnerability while showing the dynamic and trust established between the photographer and their young role model. The photographs are a reminder that anyone, at any age, can be a guiding force in another person’s life.

This exhibition was made possible thanks to the support of the Weingart Foundation, California Community Foundation, Ahmanson Foundation, Annenberg Foundation, Horace Goldsmith Foundation, Dwight Stuart Youth Fund, Ralph M. Parsons Foundation, Vernon CommUNITY Fund, Photographic Arts Council Los Angeles, City of Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs, Edward A and Ai O Shay Family Foundation, United Latinx Fund, the Yerba Buena Fund, and the Highland Park Ebell Club.

Featured Photographers: 

Athziri Flores, 17
Azul Covarrubias, 13
Gabriela Acosta, 15
Katherine De La Cruz, 14
Kirsten Velasquez, 15
Malinalli Diaz, 13
Michelle Montecinos, 16
Rachel Alarcio, 18
Sofia Araujo, 17
Tonali Murillo, 13

Teaching Artist:

Arlene Mejorado


Jon Dragonette
Kimberly Evans
Leah Choi
Leah Hubbard
Thomas Piñeda

Athziri Flores

My name is Athziri Flores and I am 17 years old. I am a senior at Franklin High School and although my school is in Highland Park, I’ve lived in East Los Angeles all my life. One of my favorite hobbies is running, so I do three different sports that involve that: soccer, cross country, and track & field. Most of my free time is spent outdoors, whether it is working out, hiking with my family, or traveling with them to other cities or countries. Spending so much time outdoors has made me value the environment and has encouraged me to major in environmental science. Being able to participate in activism has also made me want to focus on the community-based aspect of my major. In addition to athletics, and spending time outside, my time is spent hanging out with my friends, who have made high school a lot more fun than I could have ever imagined it to be. In the future, I hope to remain close to them, continue traveling, and become more skilled with my camera. Although this is my first independent experience with a camera, I hope to continue enhancing my knowledge and skills with Las Fotos Project.

About my project

An imprint is defined as an impression or stamp, a mark or outline, on a surface or body. For me, my 10-year-old sister, Meredith, has left an impression on who I have become as a person. My sister and I live together with our other sister, and parents in East LA. Growing up, there weren’t a lot of other kids on our street, or it was too dangerous to be outside, so most of our time was spent with one another.

Meredith, like most 10-year-olds, is full of energy, creativity, and questions. She never hesitates to follow her own path and express herself as she pleases, even if she may seem goofy. Although she is extremely shy when it comes to talking to new people, it only takes a short while for her to get comfortable. Once she is comfortable, you get a better idea of who she is through her constant dancing, running, and talking.

As for her impact on me, she reminds me of what it’s like to be a carefree kid again and makes me wish I would’ve been less shy when I was younger. She reminds me that it is okay to be who you are as long as you are being respectful of others. She serves as an inspiration for me and the rest of my family to better ourselves. She motivates me to be better in all aspects of my life and she knows that she can do anything she wants if she sets her mind to it.  

Azul Covarrubias

My name is Azul Covarrubias, I was born in San Gabriel, California and I now live in Alhambra. I am 13 years old and in the seventh grade at San Gabriel Mission Elementary School. I am the youngest in my family, I have a sister who is 17 years old and a brother who is 23 years old. The thing I like most about Las Fotos Project is the homework assignments we are assigned. I normally don’t like homework, but for Las Fotos Project most of our homework is to take photos of our imprints. Not only is it fun, but I developed a stronger bond than I ever had with my imprint, Kennia. Working with other girls has been an amazing experience because you have new friends that you can relate to and ask questions without feeling out of place. When I say one of my photos “turned out perfect” it means that the photo is everything that I wanted it to be. It also might mean, the overall aesthetic of the photo is to my liking, from framing, focus, and lighting. I try to ensure the photos I take have meaning and shows my imprint’s personality.

About my Project

Someone who made an imprint on my life is my close friend Kennia Camacho. She is 13 years old and I met her in fifth grade at San Gabriel Mission Elementary School. Kennia lives just five minutes away from me, so it was easy to ask her if she wanted to hang out at the park near our home. Kennia has never made me feel uncomfortable in any sort of way. She has always pushed me to be the best version of myself and I am grateful to have her in my life.

I would describe Kennia as very independent. She’s never afraid to be alone and she knows how to take care of herself. Kennia is a free spirit who is never afraid to express her feelings and is always very open and goofy. She also doesn’t let anyone hold her down when she believes in something or wants to do something. Kennia is very comfortable around anyone, even if shes only met them once.

Kennia has helped me open up to others and be my best self. She brings out a side in me that no one else has ever been able to. Now that she has helped me realize that I can be loved and appreciated, it has helped me to be more open around others. Although I am still a little shy with people I have just met, I am now more open and confident.

Gabriela Acosta

I’m Gabriela Acosta, a sophomore at Bravo Medical Magnet high school and I live in Boyle Heights. I have always been an athletic person; I’ve played soccer, cheered, and also ran in track and cross country. The arts have also been an interest of mine since the 4th grade. I love to draw and take pictures of anything that inspires me. I enjoy learning new things that interest me, especially languages. I know how to speak four languages fluently: English, Spanish, ASL, and Mandarin. I want to go into business, although I’m not sure what type yet. In the future, I also want to become an ASL interpreter for people like my sister, who is deaf, which truly inspires me.

About my Project

My 7-year-old sister, Priscilla Alonzo has left an imprint on my life. I chose her as my subject because she has played a big part in the person I am today. Priscilla has inspired family members and classmates to learn ASL because they want to communicate with her.

 Priscilla has a strong presence and most people around her will tell you that she makes them feel happy. She often smiles when she is nervous and is more friendly and comfortable with people in the deaf community or who speak ASL. She is somewhat shy and insecure with hearing people because she’s scared of being judged and bullied. When I’m with her people often ask why she is so shy and reserved, so that’s their first impression of her.

She makes me feel confident in talking to people that I wouldn’t normally interact with. She’s very intelligent, so when I see her do something that exceeds her expectations, I tell myself, “if she could do this with all the challenges thrown at her, then I can do this.” I envision our relationship getting stronger as she gets older because we will have more things in common. She inspires me so much because even when people try to put her down, she doesn’t care and always stays true to herself. If I were to grant her a wish it would be to have a farm. She’s always loved horses and wants a farm when she’s older.

Katherine De La Cruz

My name is Katherine and I am 14 years old. I was born in Joliet, Illinois, but I am currently living in East Los Angeles, California. I am a freshman at Bravo Medical Magnet High School. If I were to describe myself I would say that I am creative, sporty, and silly. I’ve done almost every sport I can think of, from running to scuba diving. I am also an activist and have been for about four years. I believe that if something is wrong you should stand up and fight for what’s right. If I could live anywhere I would want to live in Joliet so I could get to know the place where I was born. The thing I like best about photography is that I am able to express myself through it. My favorite part of Las Fotos Project was getting to meet other people and having photography in common. When I am shooting, I begin by feeling my mood then I go from there. If I were to explain my photography to a stranger I’d probably describe it as dark, sad, or mysterious.

About my Project

My subject is Shady. She is 15 years old and we met over 10 years ago. We met at Sunol Head Start and were in the same school up until sixth grade. We have both lived in East LA our whole lives. Over time our friendship has grown stronger and stronger. We grew up together. We see each other assisters and other family members are also growing up together. Whenever I’m around her I feel like I’m spending time with a sister. A first impression someone might have when they see her is that she is a very loud person. Some unique characteristics that she has are that she may seem tough, but deep down she’s kind. Some things that bring Shady joy are her phone and food. She’s a very humorous person. A couple of words that would best describe her are tough, kind, cheerful, and smart.

Photography brought me closer to Shady because we were able to spend more time together. These images show who she is because she is very silly and really couldn’t care less about what people think of her. These images were taken at Montebello Mall and in my room. The technique I used for these images was using reflections with mirrors and glasses.

Kirsten Velasquez

My name is Kirsten Velasquez and I was born in Glendale. I live in Highland Park and attend Eagle Rock High School.  I am adventurous, always up for trying new things, and have hopes to travel the world and own a company in New York City someday.  Women who inspire me include Janis Joplin, the Queen of Rock n’ Roll and Angela Davis. As a free-spirited, anti-war, genuine individual, if I had the choice to live anywhere in the world, I would still choose California to get that California breeze and to be able to pursue my wildest dreams.  Turning points in my life include opening my eyes to the world, learning more about my people, and why we need peace and love.

About my Project

My subject is my older sister Kaitlyn. She is 17 years old and a senior in high school. She lives at home with my mom, my little brothers, and I. We are pretty close in age and attend the same high school. Sometimes it feels like I have a twin because she knows me better than I know myself. I would describe her as intelligent, sympathetic, humble, and sincere. Kaitlyn likes to take care of the people she loves and it influences me to take care of my loved ones too. Spending time with family and friends brings her joy —it’s the little things in life that make her smile. Something most people don’t know about her is that she loved painting as a child and often placed her easel alongside her turtle to talk to it as she painted. If I could grant her one wish, it would be to travel the world. My family has never traveled outside of Southern California, so to travel together would be something I know she would love.

Kaitlyn has influenced me to be original and true to myself. She has always strived to find a way to change the world with acts of kindness. She has taught me to be patient, honest with myself, and sympathetic with others. I can easily say that Kaitlyn has helped me find myself and my confidence. I envision my relationship with my sister evolving to where we work together to make the world a better place for future generations.

This project has brought us closer by giving us an opportunity to share some candid, spontaneous moments. These images convey her personality and her everyday life. They tell the story of my sister and show her glowing beauty. We shot together while exploring our community and hanging out at home. I chose to use these specific photo techniques because I knew it would capture the beauty of her youth and hope to show that we are all still young inside.

Malinalli Diaz

My name is Malinalli M. Diaz and I am an only child. I am Huichol from my mom’s side and Mixtec from my dad’s. My hobbies include riding my bike, muay thai, playing with my dog, and photography. I enjoy photography because it’s therapeutic and you get to escape from everything and focus on capturing a moment.  My friends describe me as funny, creative, and cheerful. I have a big imagination and I enjoy thinking out of the box. When I grow up I would like to be an OBGYN because I find the female body amazing and I think science is very interesting. I would also like to pursue something in the field of photography. I like meeting new people and love hanging out with friends but when it’s time to focus I pay attention and take my work very seriously.

About my Project

This is my close friend from school named Lila. We have been friends since the third grade. Lila is 12 years old and lives in my neighborhood. We officially met in an after-school program and talked a little. Lila then skipped a grade and moved into my classroom. She sat at my table and we got to know each other really well. We have since become great friends. Lila has a unique personality and can be very silly but also very serious when she wants to, this is what I appreciate most about her.

Somethings that bring Lila joy is her family, making and finding clothing, “Chicago Wednesday”, her dog, time with friends, and cheesy jokes. She is very hardworking and ambitious. Being around her can be very fun and joyful. She is special because your first impression of her changes as you get to know her. She challenges people by making them think bigger and inspires them to reach for the stars.

Through this project, I have been able to get closer to her as a friend by being able to see who she is during her free time. The images I have taken show what she does on a typical day and what emotions she normally feels. I have seen when she has to be serious and act mature and also when she can cut loose and be playful. Through photography, I have also seen little details that I would normally never notice about her life. In many ways, this project allowed me to learn more about Lila than I ever thought possible.

Michelle Montecinos

I am Michelle Montecinos and I was born in Los Angeles, California. I am 16 years old and currently attending Dr. Olga Mohan High School in Downtown Los Angeles. I have been attending Las Fotos Projects for two semesters. I have had a wonderful experience getting to know different girls and learning more about photography, which is something I love. I don’t yet consider myself a great photographer. I believe making an effort to learn day by day will help improve my skills. In my free time, I like to color using crayons or pick up my camera and get creative. I consider myself a girl who always tries to work her way to be the best at something.

About my Project

Isabel Maravilla became my neighbor when I was 7 years old. I was curious to see if there was a girl my age to play with. As I approached her house with my bike, I saw a lady and she told me, “Hola! Quieres jugar con mi nieta?” When she came out we told each other our names and started playing tag. I randomly saw her climbing up the brick wall and running past me. I was scared this girl was going to trip me. The next day, as I heard her running towards my house, I hid and told my mom to tell her I wasn’t home. After a few months of playing with her and talking, I started to gain trust and was soon able to talk to her about all of the things that happened in my life.

Isabel and I have become close over the years, never leaving each other’s side. I consider her one of my best friends. Around Isabel, I feel safe and her friendship has left a huge imprint in my life. I’ve been so grateful for this project and to be able to create with someone who makes me a better person. Through photography and throughout the course of this semester, Isabel and I have been able to experience some really great times together while capturing special moments.

Thanks to Isabel, I am no longer scared of rollercoasters. She is very brave and has been able to pass that onto me. I am not afraid to speak up for myself when I need to anymore, thanks to her. Throughout our friendship, I have gained qualities that make me a better person. She has taught me to do things I always assumed I couldn’t do and has helped me understand that bad situations should not affect me.

Rachel Alarcio

My name is Rachel Alarcio, I’m 18 years old and a senior at John Marshall High School. I’m a proud mentee of WriteGirl, having joined in my ninth grade year. One of their creative writing workshops, “CLICK: WriteGirl at the Huntington,” piqued my interest in photography. So, I joined my school’s yearbook team. During the fall semester, I really enjoyed capturing the candid moments of high school. I joined Las Fotos Project in the spring semester, in order to learn more about the technical aspects of photography. Over the course of this semester, I gained a new outlet for creative expression and developed my technical skill with a DSLR. Thanks to this class, I’ve formed closer bonds with my friends and developed a deeper interest in pursuing photography while I’m in college. My other hobbies include all forms of creative writing, playing the guitar and digital editing.

About my Project

I met my best friend Samantha “Sammy” Kolasa on our first day of high school. After meeting her, one may call her confident, calm, and easy-going. She is an empathetic listener and intelligent thinker–always eager to give her opinion on various issues.

Sammy has some of the most unique facial expressions, many of which never fail to make me smile. She has a penchant for photography and film. On campus, she is in Stage Crew and Campus News. Cats and dogs always make her smile. Sammy is a DC and Marvel girl; she can’t pick a side. She’s also a vocal ally for the LGBTQ+ community. Her opinions about the world and society, which we talk about often during passing periods, help shape my own worldview. Samantha’s dedication to her craft as a videographer/filmmaker inspires me to develop my own passions. She’s been there for me in trying times. Her constant and genuine support for everyone in her life has taught me how to be a good life cheerleader.

This project and the process of directing Samantha has definitely brought us closer, especially since photography is her original passion. I could always ask her for help. I used aperture and depth of field, two of Samantha’s stylistic preferences in her own photography, to tell her story. I chose to incorporate her style so that a part of her would be conveyed in every photo, regardless of whether she was in the shot. I chose to play with framing, lighting, and contrast to emulate stills from films, her future major. After graduation, I know we’ll collaborate on a lot of creative projects and keep in touch.

Sofia Araujo

My name is Ana Sofia, I’m 17 years old, and a junior at Sequoyah High School in Pasadena. I love literature and poetry and hope to become a psychologist and work with kids. I’m very passionate about advocacy and service work. I am a youth advocate with the Invest in Youth Coalition, a network of organizations throughout Los Angeles focused on changing youth development funding in the City of Los Angeles. I feel it’s my responsibility as a young person to have a role in creating the world I want to live in. I see photography as a vehicle for introducing different perspectives and ideas that can support in visualizing a new future.

My best friend Reyna has left an imprint on my life. She is my “partner in crime”. We met at volleyball practice during our freshmen year and started hanging out through mutual friends. She is the “mom” of our groups and works hard to care for others. She yells at me for not eating correctly and when we’ve gone camping she’s scolded me for not wearing a jacket in the cold.

Reyna encourages me to step out of my comfort zone and do things that I never imagined being able to do. She always makes me laugh and reassures me of my abilities whenever I doubt myself. She is always down to do wild things with me. If I want to do something crazy, I always know that I can count on her to be by my side. Reyna is someone I can rely on no matter what and someone who I know will always have my back.

I trust Reyna to be a sort of sounding board when it comes to my photography. She is ridiculously creative and has so many great ideas! A lot of the time, Reyna helps me figure out a shot and points things out that I wouldn’t have noticed without her. Although I enjoy being independent with my work and I’m a proud perfectionist, I always rely on Reyna to give me an honest opinion.

Tonali Murillo

My name is Tonali Murillo and I am in the 7th grade. I am 13 years old and the youngest of four siblings. My sister Anissa, who is currently a member of Hire Her, inspired me to be at Las Fotos. She’s been with Las Fotos Project longer than I have and has always told me that photography is a way you can share your feelings by expressing yourself through an image. Since starting in the program, I’ve learned about the steps necessary to capture a photo on a digital camera, like composition and exposure. If I ever need help, I know I can always turn to my sister or a Las Fotos Project mentor for help.

About my Project

The person who has left a large imprint on my life is, Anissa Murillo. Anissa is my 18-year-old sister who is currently a senior at Marc and Evan Stern Math High School and has been with Las Fotos Project for over three years. My relationship with my sister is very special. She is loveable and goofy in very weird ways. Anissa is a person whose opinions and words mean a lot to me and she always offers me great advice on life.

My sister is like an older brother to me. She is always looking out for people, no matter what happens. Even though we have disagreements from time to time, we always make it a point to apologize to each other as soon as possible. She is such an amazing photographer who captures emotional images in such unique ways. Her artwork has been on display at the Getty Museum and she has even received an award from the US Congress! Seeing her work at photography shows has encouraged me to become a better photographer and person.

These images tell a story of who Anissa is to me. She is somebody who can be fun and goofy or calm and serious. Anissa always gives me constructive feedback and supports me in all I do whether or not it’s related to photography. My sister is an amazing artist and she inspires me to always help others.