Broader VIII: Photographing Girlhood

Photo by Ashley Armitage

By Grace Rogers, Highlighter staff columnist

Though girlhood takes endless shapes and forms, a certain aesthetic has taken over the online art world — one that’s dreamy, nostalgic, and most likely pastel pink. Fourteen-year-old actress Rowan Blanchard summed up this aesthetic well in an interview with “Dazed Digital,” saying girls are reclaiming things like “make-up, pink, selfies, iPhones – all these things that we use to undermine teenage girls and make them feel embarrassed. Girls are saying, ‘Well, if that’s what you’re going to use against me, then I’m going to use them for me.’”

Instead of rejecting notions of femininity, the latest wave of artistic feminism is embracing them. This is largely different from past feminist movements like Riot Grrrl, which championed the taking of society-enforced “masculine” traits like abrasiveness and anger. Though feminism in 2016 — sometimes referred to as “fourth-wave feminism” — isn’t as rough-and-tough as the feminist punks of the nineties, the confidence and security derived from softness should not be deemed invalid. Reclaiming and reappropriating these themes of girlhood are valid and important, but despite its popularity, I don’t think this aesthetic is necessarily relatable to all girls — making the search for a variety of representations even more vital.

Here are five female photographers who are capturing their own versions girlhood.

Maisie Cousins.png
Photos by Maise Cousins

Maisie Cousins is from London. She is interested in normalizing nudity and embracing the “slimy, greasy textures” of our bodies.

“If people’s attitude towards vaginas had progressed in any way, we probably wouldn’t need to take pictures of flowers that represent vaginas to make us feel more positive about them.” (x)

Photo by Ashley Armitage

Ashley Armitage is from Seattle. She nails the pink-pastel aesthetic.

“There’s a huge difference in being creative with girls than with guys. I feel like girls – and other minorities – know that we need to work harder to be heard, so we adapt by working together and supporting each other. In my photography I’m not trying to speak in place of all women, because I don’t have that right. I’m just trying to show my personal perspective of what being a girl is like.” (x)

Photo by Ronan Mckenzie

Ronan Mckenzie is from East London. She likes to photograph black beauty.

“I want to show that black identity is as diverse as our skin tones. It’s so important to be comfortable with who we are as black people in a society where black people are still looked down on in some situations, and be proud of who we are and certain about what we do. Within my exhibition I don’t want to assume anything about the people I shot, I just want the images to speak for themselves.” (x)

Photo by Dafy Hagai

Dafy Hagai is from Tel Aviv. Her photo series and book, “Israeli Girls,” depicts girlhood in Israel as “young, teenage, suburban and cool.”

“It’s more of a cultural statement than a political one. For the most part, Tel Aviv and the center of Israel aren’t conservative or religious, so these are just girls dealing with growing up, learning about their body, ownership and sexuality. These girls aren’t that different from girls growing up in Jersey, but it’s funny that people are surprised to see Israeli girls the way I shot them, as if they were supposed to be more modest or religious!” (x)

Photo by Mayan Toledano

Mayan Toledano is half of the genius behind the femme feminist clothing label, Me and You. She photographs a lot of dreamy bedrooms.

“I always feel like I keep going back to the aesthetic of teenage bedrooms and bedrooms in general. The bed is a big place for me. That’s where I am creative. Your bedroom is the first place that is your own and private, and it’s your first place to be creative. So you put posters on the wall and a photo of your muse or someone you admire or stickers or whatever you’re into. And my bedroom was always like that. It inspires me and I feel like there’s something really vulnerable about it and really personal.” (x)


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