After learning the requirements of the assignment, the perfect acquaintance came to mind: Elisa. We shared an art class together fall semester and exchanged numbers, promising that we would stay in touch. We never did. This project provided a great opportunity to send the first message to reconnect, and I’m very grateful for that. Throughout the photo sessions, we discussed family traditions, religion, Joan Didion, manspreading and euro-centric beauty standards. We truly became good friends and even made plans to get together this summer.

My favorite image is the glamorous photograph of Elisa looking upward. I particularly loved the darker hue of pink on her lips contrasting with the lighter pink of her shirt. The shadow of her curl below her eye is interesting because the loc casting the shadow doesn’t mimic the heart-like contour it creates. Due to the window blind acting as a backdrop, Elisa’s location appears unknown; she becomes enveloped in the light and mystery, emphasized by her gaze falling off the image.

Another favorite set of images are the ones taken in the print studio. The lighting in the studio is amazing and the environment is creative, spacious and cluttered—the perfect location to tell a story. This is also the space where we met in collage class, we even ran into our professor when taking these photographs.

For this project, I really wanted to tell a new story and tone within each photograph utilizing the environment as a tool. I’m not sure I was successful but I enjoyed trying. Working with Elisa opened my eyes to different life experiences. I showed her one of my favorite images after our last session, and while she liked it, she admitted she doesn’t like looking at images of herself. This led to an in-depth discussion of the value placed on euro-centric features when defining the word beautiful, especially here on UNC’s campus. As well as the complexities of beauty standards within her own community, as a mixed race woman of Indian and French/Spanish heritage. I hope some of these images help Elisa find power and strength in her beauty.