2011-2017: My Teens

The 2010s, the decade that just ended, can be called the “Teens”. Throughout the past decade many changes came along including globalization, the social media revolution, Youtubers, and the #MeToo movement. I spent most of the decade in my hometown, in my bedroom, online. In this series of images, I explore my teens as seen through rites of passage, the shoes and glasses I used to wear, and my own development. My bedroom continues to be the same as it was throughout my teenage years. It was in my teens that I began to become more aware of myself, my body and my face. My friends would follow YouTube makeup artists like Jeffree Star. I would read Nylon and Vogue magazine, watch reality TV, most notably, Keeping Up with the Kardashians. This series is about my self-perception and may serve as a portrait of my younger, naïve self. Looking back on my teens, I realize how part of my maturing has been unpacking gender norms and beauty standards I had embraced. These images show the girl I was from 2011 to 2017.

I realized looking back at photo-strips, I wore my hair straight often. However, all my student ID and passport pictures featured my naturally curly hair. I remember being annoyed when my curls would stick out. I believed in a bias that tidy, straight, sleek hair was professional, prettier.

To have clear skin was of utmost importance to me as a teenage girl. Now, I continue to inspect my face after showering, and apply Cetaphil moisturizer after. Once I apply my moisturizer, I no longer think about the clearness of my skin until the next time I shower, or I see an ad on Instagram about skincare.

Whiteheads, an oily nose, used to be something that made me feel insecure. This concerned me more than getting a pimple. Hormonal changes throughout adolescence influence skin’s appearance. I wish someone had told me that to some extent my skincare was out of my hands. The stress coming from having flawless skin would have been better placed on developing a healthy diet.

I remember when I first began shaving, I would always manage to miss a spot. If I were sitting at school and noticed I had missed my knees (the only visible spot between my knee-length skirt and high socks), I would feel embarrassed. I doubt anybody noticed but me. Hairlessness in women only came about in the early 20th century. I now see shaving as a choice, not an expectation.

Part of ‘coming of age’ is growing to accept oneself. I was confident in myself academically and with my family, but part of my maturing with time was becoming comfortable and confident around others. 

I never got the hang of makeup, but I tried my best. I regularly use blush, mascara, some lipstick. I still debate whether to wear my eyeglasses or not whenever I go out.

I never caught onto watching Youtube makeup artists. I got most of my makeup tips from my older sister. I never learned how to do eye-shadow, but eventually gained confidence with eyeliner. I began getting my eyebrows waxed when I was sixteen.

My high school experience consisted of attending lots of quinceañeras and formal dances. By the time I graduated, I could easily last all night in high heels. I now rarely find myself in heels. I either wear my Reebok sneakers or Birkenstock’s every day.

Coming out to society, going into the real world, these are portraits of me as I underwent rites of passage. The way my hair is done, the white versus the red gown, are stark differences in these two portraits. I also have braces in the graduation picture. It took a lot for me to smile with my teeth when I had braces.

I had not tried on my cotillion dress since my senior year of high school when I was asked to model it for the new class of debutantes as an example of a dress meeting all the cotillion committee’s guidelines. It no longer fits me. It is also very hard to move around in. I show it here as a weight no longer on my shoulder along with the gender norms that came with it.

The small green eyeglasses were my first pair of eyeglasses. I got those at my eye doctor’s office in the seventh grade. I rarely wore them; I felt insecure in them. Eventually, I had to wear them, especially if my seat was far from the board in the classrooms. I bought my own pair of eyeglasses, the clear ones, as a junior in high school, and since then, I have worn glasses every day.

The camera pictured here was my high school graduation present. My camera is a symbol of how my perspective has changed since high school. The perception I have of myself and my home changed as independence and college life provided me with a new lens to view my past through.

Submitted by Jimena Padilla

Souls in Chicago

Two days in Chicago hardly seemed long enough to explore the brick-colored city. It was the first weekend of March 2018, the biting cold a shock to my freshly shaved head and thin California skin. Less than two months into our relationship, we booked our plane tickets on an adrenaline-filled whim. Some may have called it stupid or naïve, but even then, I knew. I knew you.

The series “Souls in Chicago” captures the variety of souls that I met in Chicago. Yours, naturally. The mass of people at each train stop, everyone rushing to get on with their lives. The unknown author of the handwritten letter we found on the L, who unwittingly shared a piece of their life with us through spidery scrawl. The artists whose creations we admired, on the streets and in museums. Each and every passerby.

Chicago, I’ll be back someday. I hope you will be too.

you met my soul back in Chicago
i lost control but I'm trying to get it back
now that i'm home

but I have to say goodbye
to the idea of us intertwined,
good night

you'll always have a piece of my heart,
thank you for a lovely start

we have a complex situation,
but goodnight
with love and veneration

All photos by Victoria Conway.