A World in the Process of Becoming—The Girl Project

This photograph was taken by a teenage member of The Girl Project.  (The Girl Project© 2009)

Adolescent girls are some of the most exasperating creatures on Earth. Their multiplicity of moods—giggly, self-obsessed (or just plain obsessed), shy, petulant, inquisitive, obstinate—can wear on the most patient and sympathetic adults, even those who remember what it was like to be an adolescent girl.  And yet, from a sociological point of view, girls are fascinating for the glimpse they offer of a future world (culture) in the process of becoming. 

That’s why, when I recently heard about The Girl Project, I knew it had the potential to captivate universal audiences. Conceived by photographer Kate Engelbrecht, The Girl Project is a national photographic documentary on female adolescence from the point of view of the adolescents themselves. The project involves Engelbrecht sending free disposable cameras to girls from the ages of 13 to 18. She asks them to document themselves and the world around them. She plans to cull the most interesting shots into exhibitions and ultimately a book. She expects the collection to reveal “unseen truths about teenage girls and our culture.”

Humans have long been fascinated with female adolescence. The promise and hope behind their eyes… the purity and romanticism youth represents, the razor thin line between immaturity, maturity, innocence and rebellion. 

In today’s world it not only piques our curiosity—it feeds our insatiable need for drama. The supposed lives of teenage girls have become modern entertainment. Our ideas about them grow from what we read about Lindsay Lohan in The New York Post or what we saw on last week’s episode of The Hills. We learn what they like, buy and wear and what they believe, think and do… and just as quickly as we get our fix, we fail to understand the complexity and truth behind the very group we obsess on. 

With the hope of reintroducing them to us, The Girl Project explores the lives of American teenage girls through images they create themselves. Using the raw, honest qualities of photography, girls reveal their self-perceptions in a daring act of intimacy- both behind and before the camera. 

—Kate Engelbrecht, The Girl Project statement

Engelbrecht  is well on her way to achieving this objective. Last month, The Girl Project was featured at SCOPE Miami. That exhibit featured 150 photographs by 57 girls.  Engelbrecht continues to send cameras. My guess is that more data will reveal overall patterns and unexpected nuances. Our jigsaw puzzle of the future will look more complete.  

The photographers themselves will benefit in many ways, not the least of which is that many girls will be inspired to a life of creativity.  But it seems to me that no benefit is as powerful to them and us as this: knowingly or unknowingly, as the girls capture what is meaningful about their current world, they will be exploring the shape of the future. 

Encourage participation in The Girl Project, by passing along linkages below to girls near you!


Kate Engelbrecht  

Girl Project website

Girl Project blog

Girl Project Facebook

One Response to “A World in the Process of Becoming—The Girl Project”

  1. What a great write up. I posted a (far less well written) piece in my own blog and cross posted the information on a couple of lists whose members might have teenage girls. The photos on their blog are astonishingly good; who knew?

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