Through Las Fotos Project, teen girls zoom in on mental health
A local nonprofit is teaching young women to build confidence and self-esteem with a secret weapon: photography.
"With cameras, I think young people are so used to using social media to photograph everything that's going on in their lives, that they're very comfortable making images," said Eric Ibarra, who founded Las Fotos Project in 2010.
The community-based photography organization gives young women ages 11-18 an outlet for self-expression, while giving them hands-on experience. They provide a mentorship program, sessions focusing on mindfulness, a pen-pal-type exchange that connects students with other teens across the country and a program called Digital Promotoras, where teens use a photojournalism approach to highlight a health issue in their communities.
This time around, the assignment was to focus on mental wellness.
"In the larger picture of society, mental health is seen as something negative to talk about," said Ibarra. "So we’re trying to make it so that mental health and wellness is part of their everyday lives."
The girls chose to photograph subjects coping with a range of issues – postpartum depression, PTSD, body dysmorphia – as well as people who work in the mental health field.
"I think it's important for girls, especially at this age, to realize that some of the issues they're experiencing – it's not just them," he said. "And so I think it's important for them to realize that and be comfortable speaking about it."
The girls spent 12 weeks working on the multimedia projects – using professional cameras and editing equipment to assemble two-minute slideshows with subject audio from interviews running underneath. The group will screen the projects at an event Saturday, Jan. 14 at 1 p.m. at Little Casa theater in Boyle Heights.
Here are a few of the young photographers talking about their work: