• Slideshow Photos

    Teen girls’ self-portraits are raw, intimate, honest

    Through photos and diary-like entries, hundreds of 13- to 18-year-old participants in "The Girl Project" opened up about their lives.

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    'Please Read (if at all possible)' -

    In her new book, “Please Read (if at all possible): The Girl Project,” photographer Kate Engelbrecht shares self-portraits and diary-like entries submitted by 13- to 18-year-old girls across the country. The photographs and in-their-own-words confessions reveal that, despite media portrayals to the contrary, being a teenage girl isn’t that different today than it was decades ago.
    The Girl Project
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    Getting an accurate picture -

    Engelbrecht started “The Girl Project” in 2007 and ultimately sent Kodak single-use cameras and questionnaires to 5,000 teenage girls across the United States. The questionnaires were based on the Proust Questionnaire, which has the objective of revealing a person’s true personality.
    The Girl Project
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    Opening up -

    Young women of entirely different backgrounds, races and faiths provided handwritten answers to questions such as, “What is your idea of happiness?” “Tell me one thing about you that nobody else seems to get?” “What are you afraid of?” and “What are you most proud of?”
    The Girl Project
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    'Incredibly innocent' -

    “The most surprising thing to come out of the project, to me, is that these girls are incredibly innocent,” Engelbrecht said. “They’re innocent in a real and beautiful way.”
    The Girl Project
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    Weighty issues -

    Dozens upon dozens of images sent in by girls across the United States revealed their concern with their weight and body image.
    The Girl Project
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    A focus on body image -

    “It’s amazing how common it was” for photographs to center around body-image issues, Engelbrecht said. “It sort of crosses race and ethnicity and economic background. It’s such a big part of being a young woman – which then, of course, translates into being a woman.”
    The Girl Project
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    Dreaming, thinking, going -

    In a handwritten submission featured in the book, one girl wrote: “I’m a dreamer, I’m a thinker, I want to go places, and see the world.”
    The Girl Project
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    They're not alone -

    “A lot of themes come through in the 27,000 pictures we got back,” Engelbrecht said of “The Girl Project.” “Girls are saying and thinking and going through very, very similar things. Maybe that’s not so surprising to us as adults, but I think it would be surprising to them.”
    The Girl Project
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    Revealing what matters -

    In answer to the question, “What are you afraid of?” many girls shared a deep-seated fear of loneliness. And in response to the question, “Tell me one thing about you that nobody else seems to get,” one girl wrote, “I believe I’m more experienced and intelligent than people understand.” Another wrote, “I’m tougher than I look. Seriously.”
    The Girl Project
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    'Looking for something special' -

    Many of the girls’ photographs centered on themes of love and romance. “Not sex. Love,” Engelbrecht said. “This was huge-huge-huge. There was so much there about love and being loved and the desire to give love. They’re looking for something really special, which is so contrary to how the media makes it out to be.”
    The Girl Project
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    'I always wish for love' -

    In a handwritten submission featured in the book, one girl wrote: “I just want to be held. Loved for who I am. Listened to.” Another wrote, “Every time I make a wish, on an eyelash or a shooting star or a birthday candle, I always wish for romance and love.”
    The Girl Project
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    Friends forever -

    “The photos also really illustrate the importance of friendship,” Engelbrecht said. “You see how important female relationships are with one another. This strikes at a really early age.”
    The Girl Project
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    'I can do anything' -

    In answer to the question, “What are you most proud of?” one girl wrote, “Myself. I think I’m beautiful and I can do anything.” Another wrote, “The things I have accomplished. And surviving being a teenage girl so far.”

    To see more images from “The Girl Project,” click here.
    The Girl Project