teen photographers capture their creative friends
Five budding photographers from the Bronx to Cali shoot and interview their friends to learn about their hopes and dreams in a new political climate.
Photographer: Dana Nguyen, San Francisco, CA
"I grew up in Boston but I currently live in the suburbs of the California Bay Area. I take pictures because I want to show people how I see the world. Capturing moments that will never happen again is something very special to me and can take me back to transitional points in my life that mark my growth as a teenager. Everything around me is always changing so quickly, and capturing moments lets me experience things a little more slowly and meaningfully. I mostly take pictures of my friends in an effort to show their personalities through photos or how I view them through my own perspective. I go to high school in a suburb but I always try to escape to the city whenever I can. It's where I'm the most comfortable to be myself and I feel a lot more in tune with a fast-paced life. Most of my friends are photographers and artists. We all dress uniquely and in all different kinds of styles, just like our music tastes, which can range from King Krule to Cat Stevens to Rihanna." -D.N. @da__na
Name: Trinity Ace Gardner
How do you express yourself? Through the way I present myself, art, music, photography, and joking around.
Describe your ideal party. Would have been fun to go to a Warhol Factory party but because that's not exactly possible, I'll go with a rooftop party that overlooks the city.
What's the best thing about being young today? The opportunities that we are given through social media for sure. There's a lot of connections you can make through platforms like Instagram if you take advantage of it.
What do you wish Washington politicians would focus on? I wish they would focus more on personal rights rather than financial issues that don't apply to people of all economic backgrounds.
Name: Frankie Hyatt
How do you express yourself? Style and art.
What's the best thing about being young today? This isn't necessarily true on a universal (or even national) spectrum, but being able to express yourself however you want. Also having so many platforms to share your work with a broader audience and being able to meet people with similar interests through these platforms.
Who are your heroes? I don't know if I necessarily have any "heroes" but David Bowie has definitely had an influence on me and helped me through some stuff.
How has the 2016 election shaped your view of politics? It made me realize how racist and sexist America truly is and how it is in the hands of our generation to change this.
What do you wish Washington politicians would focus on? Police brutality! This is an issue that disproportionately affects people of color, the poor, the homeless, and the mentally ill and politicians have done very little about this even though there has been an enormous amount of effort from the people pushing for change.
Name: Haley Penn
How do you express yourself? I am a visual artist. Without my art I would be a tree without leaves or fruit. My practice has been driven by my experiences wrestling with trauma while simultaneously maneuvering the typical problems of adolescence. I create art surrounding rites of passage, absence, memory and freedom. Right now I am working on a series of paintings and photographs based on the importance of place and interpretations of warmth and home. I'm also in the process of curating a show in order to connect creatives in the bay area and hold a space for their expressions.
Who are your heroes? My family. The strongest women I know are my own mother and sister, friends and artists, Gala Prudent, Emily Yamaguchi, Pia Zarrehparvar, Tsion McYates, and Savannah Smith. They each have struggled with the unthinkable and still maintain a capacity for tenderness. I also have found heroes in artists throughout history.
What are your hopes for 2017? I would like to feel myself learning and growing. I hope that I am able to watch others grow with me. I hope participate in an art program abroad next fall as part of a gap year.
What do you wish Washington politicians would focus on? The environmental crisis is one of the most pressing issues that humanity has ever faced. Clashes between Republican administrations and environmental scientists is not a new phenomenon, but the new president has disregarded climate change altogether. I hope that government officials shape policy that reflects the needs of our planet.
Name: Logan Hammon
How do you express yourself? I strive to express myself in all that I do. Music and songwriting are really what I feel most comfortable doing. I love jazz improvisation on my sax. I also express myself through fashion and putting my own twist on things.
Describe your ideal party. My ideal party is a filled with my close friends and intriguing strangers. I enjoy connecting with others over live music and bomb snacks! A nice laid back place where I can dance and have a good time.
What's the best thing about being young today? The expansive knowledge and resources at our fingertips. I am able to connect with others all over the world and build long lasting friendships.
Who are your heroes? Debbie Harry from Blondie. Her style and iconic music pushes me to stand out and challenge myself musically. Also Miles Davis has heavily influenced my jazz playing and taught me that less is more.
What do you wish Washington politicians would focus on? I wish they would listen to the youth more and hear our crying out through protests and on social media. This is a time full of change and the government should be changing with us, not going backwards.
Photographer: Jaidev Alvarez, Bronx, New York
"I'm currently a senior at the High School of Art and Design in New York. Prior to living in the South Bronx, I lived in the Dominican Republic and I think that influenced my creativity and aesthetic a lot. I live in a predominately Hispanic and black neighborhood. I like being surrounded by people who look like me and love the diversity of my area. I associate myself with mostly other creatives of color. A lot of my friends are from my school and I also meet people at art events, parties, programs/internships and sometimes, Instagram. I like to shoot street and portrait photography because I feel like they're the most personal and raw. I love being behind the camera because I enjoy having the power to frame things how I want, and choose which specific moments I want to capture." -J.A. @jaiidev
Name: Jamont H.
How do you express yourself? I express myself through my musical tastes and styles. They are very unpredictable! One day I can go from being a goth kid who loves Trash Talk and SlipKnot, to a hood New York kid that loves Dipset.
Describe your ideal party. Voguing/dancing the night away to Brazilian funk, reggaeton, hardcore rock and trap music with my older sister.
Who are your heroes? Venus X, Vashtie, LSDXOXO, and Larry Clark.
What are your hopes for 2017? I want to work with ghe20g0th1k. I love how Venus X creates a safe environment for colored misfits. I also plan to work with DJs and to build up to my reputation in the DJ world. Lastly, I want to surround myself with more supportive people who are willing to be there for me just as much as I would be there for them.
What do you wish Washington politicians would focus on? I want see politicians cast a light on the oppressed and working-class people.
How do you express yourself? Creating art, painting, and sculpting. I also enjoy writing when a paint brush is out of reach.
What's the best thing about being young today? You're able to connect and talk with people quicker with the use of social media.
What are your hopes for 2017? To practice more self care and not over extend myself for others.
How has the new president shaped your view of politics? The new president has reinforced the idea to me that the government is not a place women of color or any person of color has much control in, which can be discouraging but allows for us to be further self-reliant and gather together to build and shape the community and the America we live in.
How do you express yourself? Through the clothes I wear and the way I style my hair. My hair is typically in its natural curly 'fro. My clothes depend on my mood. What's the best thing about being young today? Getting to explore everything with the use of social media. My social media has helped me grow as a person and get out of the bubble I was in before I got to explore different things. It's also a way to create bonds with people who have similar interests as you. I met Jaidev through Instagram when we were sophomores and we've been friends ever since.
What are your hopes for 2017? To keep a positive mindset because I tend to let very small things get the best of me and it isn't a healthy way to be. I don't want to waste any energy on small things that won't matter to me the next week.
What do you wish Washington politicians would focus on? I wish that they would do a better job at taking the BLM movement as a true political action.
Photographer: Nandin Dandar, Austin, Texas
"I am a freshman at the University of Texas at Austin. I developed a keen interest in photojournalism after seeing "Afghan Girl" by Steve McCurry, but my stepfather discouraged me. He didn't stop me directly but he once emailed me a link to a CNN article about a 23 year-old female photographer getting gangraped in Mumbai in 2013. This just made me want to pursue it more than ever before. I know it came from a caring place but it was very backward and discouraging to do such a thing. All my life events have been shaped by what this man has done to me. I turn to my friends for laughter and emotional strength. My friends are the kindest people I know, they are quirky and most importantly woke. They care." -N.D. @tangofortaj
How do you express yourself? Through my writing. For me, the ability to connect with people through written work or showcase the stories of marginalized voices is something that nothing else can really compare to.
Who are your heroes? Tavi Gevinson, Rupi Kaur, and Lorde. They're all radiant young women who have been very outspoken about things teen girls need to hear but aren't talked about much in mainstream media. They're unapologetic about their work, politics, and themselves, and that's something that's hard NOT to admire.
What are your hopes for 2017? I hope the country doesn't completely fall apart and things start looking up for those struggling now.
What do you wish Washington politicians would focus on? Women's health. It's hard to comprehend the desire male politicians have to take away the autonomy women deserve to have over their own bodies. The things some politicians might think of as unimportant like eliminating the tampon tax and wage gap or increasing access for women to obtain proper health care are so important for women everywhere. We make up half of the country's population, and its about time the issues that affect us start being addressed.
Name: Ramla Sufi
How do you express yourself? Through writing. I've had journals for as long as I can remember. Whenever I feel down or inspired I turn to writing.
What's the best thing about being young today? My generation has the power to do so much for the future.
Who are your heroes? I don't really have heroes, because everyone you put up on a pedestal lets you down other than your parents.
What do you wish Washington politicians would focus on? Racial and gender equality. I'm sick and tired of being the underdog.
Photographer: Sophia Wilson, New York, NY
"I live in lower Manhattan, and have all my life. I take pictures because it's my most pure and genuine form of self expression and it's my absolute favorite creative outlet. My daily life consists of high school during the weekdays, and then photo shoots on the weekends and after school. I also usually have meetings throughout the course of the week with different agencies and publications. I'm not afraid to admit that my group of friends is not one cohesive "clique"-- I am always making new friends, whether it be from my photographic adventures or at school, and the only people who I consider to be my friends are interesting people who I always have fun with and are not afraid to be themselves." -S.W. @phiawilson
Name: Najja Hunter
What's the best thing about being young today? The best thing about being young today is realizing you have your whole life ahead of you. The world is truly our oyster. You get the opportunity to dream and create a legacy. Often when I see older people I wonder what it feels like to be able to reflect on so much of your life. To me it's kind of a scary thought but also a blessing at the same time.
What do you want to do after high school? After high school I plan on going to college and continuing my basketball career at any school that I attend. I also plan on pursuing my passions in music, fashion, political science and other areas that attract my interest.
What are your hopes for 2017? I hope people around the country start taking initiative and becoming more present in their communities advocating for change. In the future more people should start to appreciate the power of love. In 2017 I'm hoping to get a chance to witness and be a part of a revolution for positive change!
Name: Sebastian Matthew
How do you express yourself?In the past few years, photography has played a big role in my life and I think I've fallen in love with it. I use it as a means to capture all the experiences and beauty I have around me and there is something so wonderful and satisfying when I am able to take a very honest portrait of my life. Photography helps solidify things for me and can make the passage of time a lot easier for me (which is something that can overwhelm me when I think too much about it).
Describe your ideal party. Something HUGE with lots of friends and with Tokyo Ghetto Pussy's "I Kiss Your Lips" on repeat.
Who are your heroes? My heroes include but are not limited to: Toni Morrison, Robert Mapplethorpe, Marilyn Manson, Kanye West.
How has the 2016 election shaped your view of politics? Politics are not as black and white as I had assumed. Obviously that sounds really dumb and obvious but I don't think any part of me thought that Hillary was gonna lose because EVERYBODY had told me she was gonna win. The day after election night, there was a large congregation of people in the cafeteria of my school just sobbing and watching Hillary's speech.
Photographer: Remi Riordan, Montclair, NJ.
"I started photography as a way to express myself because my mother is a photographer and I wanted to be behind the camera instead of in front of it. I take photos because I like having the ability to show people how amazing my friends are. My normal day-to-day life consists of going to public school, being the co-head of the costumes crew, and running Crybaby Zine. My friends come from many different backgrounds and have many different interests. Some are even from the internet which is a very "Gen Z" thing to say, but it is true." -R.R. @ghostgirlly
Name: Antone Brown Jr.
How do you express yourself? I like to draw so i express myself through my artwork and by being creative.
What's the best thing about being young today? You are allowed to be free and do whatever you want.
Who are your heroes? I would say my mom is my role model because she handles business and does a good job a maintaining the household and setting a good example. I also look up to A$AP Rocky because he expresses his artwork and fashion sense in the media.
How has the new president shaped your view of politics? I'm not really into politics but a lot of people that I'm around say that Trump is against some things that I'm around.
What do you wish Washington politicians would focus on? I think they should focus on black males having the opportunity to get more jobs and making college easier to go to.
Name: Siena Stern
How do you express yourself? Through being my own individual. I really strive to communicate who I am to other people through my traits and creative ideas. Both of my parents went to art school and have magnificent talents within art and photography but unfortunately I wasn't passed down those traits. Fashion is my thing, and I really enjoy a simple outfit with a little pop here and there.
What's the best thing about being young today? Being young today is such a privilege. Both of my parents definitely did not have the easiest upbringing and had to work so hard for opportunities that nowadays, are just given to people my age. Technology is also such a huge outlet. So many opportunities can spark from social media, being able to connect with tons of different people, expressing your creativity and so much more. Women also have so many more opportunities today.
How has the new president shaped your view of politics? I have always known my stance within politics but this election has influenced me to take more action to fight for what is right. This election makes me want to get involved in more movements and organizations who advocate for human rights because i fear for what will be taken away from the deserving American citizens.
Name: Steve Pierre-Louis
How do you express yourself? Through the way I dress.
Who are your heroes? The rapper Fabolous. His music has shaped me in the way I carry myself.
What do you wish Washington politicians would focus on? I would like politics to focus on getting the middle class more visible in our class pyramid instead of keeping the rich, rich and poor, poor.