In Reclamation






I exist as a product of my experiences. As a queer person, I’m forced to consider how I occupy spaces which are inherently heteronormative and how I’ve thereby internalized the standards of heteronormative institutions. This intrinsically defines how I understand intimacy and closeness. I created this series as a reclamation of intimacy by recreating an archival wedding photo through a queer lens. The process of creating the images was equally as important as the images themselves. It allowed me to create an unapologetically vulnerable space, helping me to genuinely connect to the models with whom I was working. In this way my work gives me space to learn how to feel vulnerable, and reclaim space which I feel has been taken from me.


By Callahan Bracken

Mother Nature


The first piece is entitled “Girl Gang.” I wanted to portray women as strong, bad-ass beings to show that girls are not weak; we are a force to be reckoned with. I aimed for a sort of spooky Powerpuff Girl kind of vibe. 



The second piece is entitled “Being Trans,” and it was a commission for a trans friend of mine. I wanted to highlight the sentiment that come with gender dysmorphia: not feeling connected with the physical sex given to you at birth. 



The third piece is untitled, but demonstrates a motif that I use often in my artwork. I use flowers growing out of a decapitated head or body to demonstrate the idea that what’s on the inside—the mind, emotions, and ideas—can show as much beauty as someone’s exterior features. 



The fourth piece is entitled “Mother Nature.” I am trying to celebrate women as a source of life. Women help the world grow. Without women, none of us would be here. Without women, none of us would blossom. 


By Maya Cardinali

Divinity






In creating this series, I felt called upon to provide a visual registry of other people’s inner processes. At the same time, I wanted to relate this artistic composition to situations of my own. This is not a series about love or infatuation—this is a series about deep connection and freedom. It’s a reverent acknowledgment of the divine essences inside each person’s souls. I wanted to portray purity of heart, honesty as a lifestyle, and the deep affection that each person in these photographs has for the others.


This series is an invitation to rethink ourselves as individuals, to instead consider ourselves as part of something bigger: the universe. I want to ask the spectator to observe their own personality and vulnerability. Loving freely is not a dare—it is the simplest thing in existence.


By Hellen Rodel

Valedictory Address


My mom was really proud of me when I told her I was graduating high school with honors. She didn’t seem as thrilled when the ceremony came and she found out sixteen other people in my batch were graduating with high honors.

I can’t blame her though. From first grade until halfway through high school, I was the class valedictorian. I’m not, anymore, and she’s obviously disappointed. I, on the other hand, have never been happier.

I mean, sure, growing up a valedictorian meant praise. People told me I had a bright future, that I could be anything I dreamed to be, and of course I believed them. When you’re young you believe everything adults say. 

But growing up a valedictorian also meant growing up in a box. People believed I had a bright future, so I had to have a bright future. Family dinners became discussion groups centered on my career path, and I was never invited to the table. Everyone was making the decisions for me, as if my intelligence was a resource that I, at my young age, had no right to manage. 

It meant being put on a pedestal for most of my childhood. Everyone expected me to have all the answers at a time when I was supposed to be asking questions; I had no room for error at an age when I was supposed to make mistakes. For most of my adolescence, I saw asking for help as a sign of defeat, as my admission that I wasn’t as smart as people thought I was.

Growing up a valedictorian meant I was subjected to a decade-long competition with my peers. My parents would ask me how I was doing at school—you know, like parents do. But then they would ask me how my friends were doing, how the other smart kids were doing. Whenever one of my classmates would achieve something, I never knew how to act. I always felt like all eyes were on me, waiting to see how I’d react, to see if I was playing the part of graceful loser. I don’t think I’ve ever been truly, unconditionally proud of a peer’s achievement, because there’s always that tinge of envy or dread—how will I explain this to my parents? How will I explain that someone else received the award? I experienced an omnipresent sense of guilt, which enabled dark thoughts: I’m not good enough; my parents are disappointed in me; I’m always doing something wrong. I started taking long naps before dinnertime because I always had an anxiety attack when my mom came home from work. She said I slept too much. I was always too much, but also somehow never enough.

Growing up a valedictorian meant always questioning what my parents thought of me. Did they really love me, or did they love their little trophy daughter they could show off to their friends? Would they still love me if I was no longer what they dreamed me to be? 

Losing my title was a huge sigh of relief. I’m happy partly because this immense pressure is off me; the label “valedictorian” has been lifted off my shoulders. But mostly it’s because growing up valedictorian meant getting things handed to me. I was elected student council president even though I was underqualified. I was invited to write in the school paper without going through auditions. I was always the group leader, and I was always getting my way. I didn’t have to listen to others’ suggestions because no one dared to say anything after I spoke. 

Growing up valedictorian meant being on the verge of tears whenever someone offered me criticism, even if it was healthy or constructive. I experienced spurts of irrational anger when someone other than a teacher told me what to do.

Growing up valedictorian meant growing up arrogant. Condescending. Self-aggrandizing. Lazy. I bullshitted my way through oral presentations and book reports, and I was always sure I would get away with it. I could write an essay in ten minutes and still receive the highest marks. I could memorize a passage in half the time it took my classmates to do it. And I wanted everyone to know that. Sure, I was growing tired of all the expectations. I didn’t want anyone to know that I was the smart kid and start treating me differently. But then another part of me wanted everyone to know that I was the smart kid. I wanted them to know I got into the Top 50 of the regional spelling bee. I wanted them to know I’d been the best sixth-grade editorial writer in the whole city. I wanted to brag, because growing up valedictorian meant growing up being defined by my academic achievements. If I wasn’t the resident prodigy, then who was I? 

Growing up valedictorian meant learning to be a good student, but not a good person. In the process of focusing all my energy on being the best, I forgot to be good. I always felt angry, sad, tired, and overall just miserable because I was constantly rattled with anxiety. In ninth grade, I was beginning to burn out and my grades started to drop. My rank fell to third, and everyone took it harshly. My parents whispered about it in the living room the day they got my report card. Teachers and guidance counselors asked me what was happening—was something wrong at home? Was there anything they could do to help? I took it hard at first too: I cried about it for days, and I started feeling anxious about my work. 

It took a few weeks to get over it, but once I did, it was completely, overwhelmingly liberating. I suddenly had room to mess up, to grow. I wasn’t carrying the weight of being the top of my class anymore; I no longer felt like the world was watching me, waiting for me to make a mistake. I felt less guilty about having downtime. I took my time resting. I looked for things to be passionate about. Less of my energy was spent being frustrated with myself, so I poured more into being kind and empathetic. It’s been really difficult to practice values I only started to apply when I got older, but I’m trying every day. I try not to beat myself up for my slow progress.

It’s been four years since I’ve been the top of the class. I’m at my high school graduation, and I don’t know what my class rank is; I never bothered to check. And I’m happy, because growing up valedictorian meant growing up quantifying myself, ranking myself among my peers, grading my worth. It meant having no passions because I only found joy in the validation of my teachers and parents. It meant growing up in a cycle of anxiety and arrogance.


And now that I’ve finally stopped growing up a valedictorian, I can actually grow as a person, in my own terms, in my own ways. It doesn’t matter if not everyone is proud of me; for the first time, I’m truly, wholeheartedly proud of myself. 


By Andrea Panaligan

Neo-N Identity







My work acts as a reflection of my self and the world around me. Text, video, photo, and animation are some of the mediums I use to convey my thoughts and ideas to the public. I am deeply influenced by the moving world—the speed at which people talk and walk, how cars move and beep, the industrial sounds on the streets. This speed is what inspires me and my work. I started my first project in September, 2016; above are a collection of photographs I’ve taken between then and now. I project this speed indirectly by creating animations and vibrant imagery which compose a series of random self-created images and colors that change rapidly. These shifting images are a projection of my incoherent thoughts of the world, due to its rapid growth and lack of time to understand its process. 


By REDGRITS

Gotta Love, Gotta Hate








Let's cut to the chase: the political climate we live in today is all over the place. I mean, there are pros and cons. Rhandi and I are two young black women, and the world is constantly changing in ways that will determine our future. These are our thoughts on what we’ve been witnessing.

Miah: I recently did an interview with Medium and explained the exact same thing I’m going to explain to you all. The society we live in today relies too much on hashtags to do the job for us. For example, a young black man gets killed, becomes a hashtag, and is talked about for two weeks before he’s forgotten. We are too worried about fashion, music, and even art to realize and acknowledge that this world is falling apart. Don’t get me wrong, I love all three of those subjects, but we need to do more than just use hashtags. It reminds me a lot of Childish Gambino's music video ​for “This Is America.” ​If you take a closer look at the background, there's chaos—but if you look at Childish Gambino and his dancers, it’s clear they’re distracted and oblivious to the horrible things happening around them. 

Honestie Smith: Political figures who we choose to support come from rich backgrounds or some sort of high standing and work to make the wealthy more wealthy while shaming the country for being poor and not allowing a process that could ultimately make America’s economy much greater by creating resources for lower class citizens who also contribute to American society. 
Also, black people don’t just wake up one day and decide to sell drugs—we’re racially profiled almost everywhere we go, which makes it harder for most of us to obtain better jobs and a better education. And as college tuition and scholarships are getting higher, it’s becoming more difficult for people in poverty in general.

Rhandi: We are fortunate enough to live in a time that’s more accepting of change and difference, especially for Generation Z. My generation is rising in the work force and has a lot of opportunities due to technology! Thanks to social media, anything and everything can be broadcasted and shared. For some that may not sound like much, but it gives us creatives and entrepreneurs a voice and a platform to share our opinions and art. People are being found, scouted, recruited, and signed, all from these pages and websites. We’re being given this space to voice our opinions, our thoughts. 

The world is slowly becoming more accepting of fluid gender roles, more cautious towards mental health, and better at listening. Everywhere you look, there’s a magazine, public figure, or some kind of blog addressing and speaking on crucial issues. We are on the rise to building something that’s bigger and greater than all of us. Freedom of speech through social media is allowing the world to speak on what we believe.


Written by Somiah Nettles, Rhandi Purnell, and Honestie Smith
Photos and direction by Somiah Nettles

Modeled by Rhandi Purnell

I’m Taking a Gap Semester by Accident and It’s Not the End of the World


I was going to be the first person in my family to do college “the right way,” meaning straight out of high school with a declared major and no breaks. Deciding to take this semester off and afterwards return to community college instead of the four-year institution I’d committed to felt like taking ten steps back and losing three turns in a real game of Life. 

The road to that decision was made up entirely of mistakes. I’m not taking a gap semester because I hate school or am experiencing an existential crisis—I’m taking a gap semester because I took too long to figure out when my registration date was and then couldn’t nab good required classes before they filled up, and I also realized that having two different names is a pretty major life setback. It’s a long story. So my parents and I decided I’d take this semester to sort out bigger priorities instead, and then I suggested that when I do continue school it should be at community college. I’ll get an associate degree for a quarter of the cost while simultaneously bypassing all the core requirements of my original university. 

They were fans of this new plan, and generally have never failed to be my biggest cheerleaders. I grew up wanting the be a fashion designer, an astronaut, a singer, a nurse, a detective, an A&R agent, a marine biologist, and an English professor before discovering that journalism is where my heart is. Even through all the doubt and existentialism, I never once thought there was something I was supposed to be doing to make them proud. “As long as you’re happy and can support yourself.” When I reflect, I know this gap isn’t the end of the world. I have my parents behind me, I miraculously landed an internship at a print music magazine, and I’ll still graduate a year early. 

That didn’t stop me from keeping it a secret from everyone else until they asked, though.
We live in monochromatic America. Our society thrives off calendars, schedules, and timelines. It’s been collectively accepted that we have one life, and the time we have in it stops for no person and no slip-up. That’s why teetering off the track designed for young women with a dream absolutely plagued me. In retrospect, what harm could these six months do? I knew in my mind I was making the right choice, I knew that I was definitely going back to school, and even before I got my internship I was determined to use my time productively. All in all, I knew this was a temporary halt and that I refused to be lazy with it, but I still felt like I was disappointing someone. 

Terms like “community college” and “gap semester” don’t initially produce images in our minds of people with drive and goals, and I think that’s where the weariness in being open about it came from. When I was in high school, a list of where everyone was going to school was emailed to us, and I remember comments like “Of course he’s going to community college” being made. When I told a friend about what was going on, she said “You’re going to be the smartest person at a dumb-people school.” 

To be clear, it’s not so much about doubting people that come from less established schools—it’s more the fact that we have predetermined ideas of what a valuable or successful repertoire looks like. A competitive candidate can be so easily overlooked because they’re missing a degree on the education section of their resume. However, I still don’t think that means we should allow ourselves to be entrapped in what seems like the designated life sequence. Admittedly, being on a gap—whether it was by accident or not—ate me alive until I secured my internship. But the point is, it shouldn’t have. What I had to do was what was physically and spiritually right for me at the very moment. When I’m done with community college, the school I’m going back to is no NYU because I know that wouldn’t be right for me either. I used to feel guilty about that, like I could be doing more, but that guilt wasn’t coming from me. It was coming from being scared that I would be one of those people that you couldn’t see had drive and goals from the name of their school. 


But talent is undeniable. Skill is undeniable. Individuality is undeniable. Most importantly, passion is undeniable. Guidelines are a convenient blueprint, but sometimes the best experiences are out of the way of them. 


By Angelica Crisostomo

Pareidolia






There is meaning and optimism in Amelia’s color and fabric choices—pink being delicate, sweet, and playful, and orange a combination of passion-driven red and happy yellow. There is an intention to create a joyful atmosphere surrounding the work. Today, there isn’t much positivity around love anymore; true love is thought to only exist within movies, for example. By creating a design that portrays a female in her most feminine form, the clothing communicates that love is, or at least should be, fun and joyful. The colors are just as energetic and playful as love should be.


Amelia also injects her personality into her designs. Therefore, there is a duality in how viewers may interpret the work. The hand-painted face adorning the leather jacket could be seen as miserable, though that was not the intention—again, it came from a personal place of love, attention, and dedication. There are two sides to everything—two sides to life, and two sides to love. Darkness and light are co-dependent, and such is life.

Photos by Connor Walker 
Modeled by Amy McCranor
Designs by Amelia De Kauwe

The Gender Revolution in Fashion


Gender fluidity is a current hot-button topic in media culture, but what does it mean for fashion?  The concept has been toyed with by many designers, new and established, but recently it seems to be becoming the norm for runways.

The pioneers of gender fluidity in mainstream fashion have been here for what seems like forever now, the most well known being John Galliano for Maison Margiela, and the smash hit Alessandro Michele for Gucci. Both designers are drawn to ungendered garments, as well as the concept of cross-dressing in their shows. With these two brands being some of the biggest creative names in the industry, other designers seem to be following suit. In recent seasons, brands have begun eliminating the ideas of “womenswear” and “menswear” completely, and just designing for everyone all at once. (Hooray!)  

This philosophy was put on full display this year with major brands like Louis Vuitton, Calvin Klein, and Givenchy adding male-identifying models to their “womenswear” collections, or just scratching gender-labelled collections altogether. Ungendered collections were also released by up-and-coming New York favorites such as Eckhaus Latta, Pyer Moss, and Sies Marjan.  The main theme throughout all of these shows appeared to be clothes that could be sold to either gender, and the use of boxy silhouettes that could adapt to all bodies.

These great strides have changed fashion into a much more relevant industry within the course of just two years, and the diversifying will only increase as time goes by. These actions are most likely the result of a dying fashion industry, with luxury brands finding it harder and harder to market their products to the younger generations. As Gen Z enters its twenties, its members have become the target market for brands, not millenials. The only problem is that Gen Z is vastly different from Millennials, and therefore cannot be marketed to in the same way, resulting in mass crisis for the fashion industry and its designers.  

Because Gen Z is the first generation to grow up with social media and smartphones, it is the first to experience such a constant stream of information during its youth. This has resulted in strongly opinionated young people, something that marketers are not used to, and the fashion industry has had to adapt. The generation’s desire for individuality and equality has forced the industry to respond with genderless collections and more wearable designs for the consumer.

This targets men specifically, because it aims to normalize the idea of something other than dark colors and suits being appropriate for them to wear. Whether women realize it or not, fashion is the one area where we really do have the upper hand. Women fought for their right to wear “male-specific” items like pants and blazers, and thankfully we won. However, it is not fair that we are granted the options to dress in a masculine or feminine manner while men aren’t. 


Now, I don’t think that we will see lots of straight men walking around in dresses anytime soon, but we are headed towards positive, progressive change. The industry is beginning to listen to its consumers, and it’s becoming clear that Gen Z craves an unprecedented wholeness because we’ve grown up in the heat of division. Generally speaking, eliminating separation is key; our lack of communication only promotes the ignorance and further interpersonal divide. Clothes may just be the one thing that can bring us together to allow for more open communication and understanding between genders…who knew?  Apparently, we did.


By Lindsey Rogers