photographs that chronicle the highs and lows of being a teenage girl

In a new photobook Becoming the Woman You'd Want Me to Be, California-born photographer, director and Art Hoe curator Jheyda McGarrell documents her teenage years. Fast approaching her 20th birthday, here she offers us a guide to growing up.

Nov 17 2017, 8:15am

“I’ve always found myself grappling with the desire to live a westernised life, and experience the various stages of womanhood within a timeline that western society presents as normal. But within my own mixed Afro-Caribbean and Mexican heritage there are very strict standards when it comes to how women should act, dress and think.

As a black woman, I have found that womanhood is made up of constant conflicts around identity and battles with eurocentric standards of beauty. Yet there’s also a fullness of culture, black beauty and support. I have found so much meaning in the experiences of the black and Mexican women who have raised me, how they’ve found strength to truly express themselves.

Becoming the Woman You'd Want Me to Be is a rebellious statement about navigating my personal experience of becoming a woman within the context of various cultural expectations. I wanted to document my life and capture the beauty of my community so that I might empower other young people of colour to share their own stories and therefore represent the complexity of our lives and the different objects that influence us daily. Here are some things I’ve learnt along the way.”

It’s okay to be confused. You don't have to know who you are, what you like, what you want to do, or anything. Every phase I’ve gone through has informed who am and who I will become.

Only try and live up to your own expectations. Your life is your own and you are good enough.

Sense of self and inner wholeness is more important than you’d believe. If you don’t love yourself how are you supposed to grow?

Worrying is useless. People will do what they want regardless of how you feel, let them and learn how to be unaffected. Let yourself feel your emotions then push them away. Let bad experiences teach you, but don't let them make you bitter.

Empathise and humanise others. Everyone is going through their own journey, it’s just as hard to be them as it is to be you. As the ancient Roman playwright Terence once wrote, “I am a human being, nothing human can be alien to me”. One of my big role models, Maya Angelou is quoted as once saying, “If you can internalise at least a portion of that, you will never be able to say of a criminal act, ‘Oh, I couldn’t do that,’ no matter how heinous a crime. If a human being did it, you have to say, ‘I have all components in me that are in him or her, I intend to use my energy constructively as opposed to destructively, if you can do that about the negative, just imagine what you could do about the positive.’”