Five years ago, the photographer Cassandra Giraldo fell into step with some teenagers on their way to the mall at Atlantic Terminal in Brooklyn. She spent the next several months documenting two of the girls, April and Desire, until their graduation from the eighth grade.
“They opened their whole worlds to me,” said Ms. Giraldo, 26, who was enrolled in the International Center of Photography at the time. “They both came from single-mother households,” she said. “They had to help their moms take care of the other kids. They had this added maturity that already marks the New York City teenager.”
That experience became the seed for The After School Project, Ms. Giraldo’s continuing Instagram series documenting how students, mostly in Brooklyn, all in public schools, spend the interlude between school and home. Her parameters for the project, which was a finalist for the inaugural Getty Images Instagram Grant last year, were loose.
“I’m trying to capture these kids at their most authentic time,” she said. “They’re not being watched by their teachers and parents.” She photographed them playing sports, or just hanging out. “I’ve experienced after-school time as this lighthearted time,” she said. “It’s great to run into the same kids time and time again. I see how the girlfriend or boyfriend from about a week ago is no longer the girlfriend or boyfriend.”
Now studying education reporting at the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism, Ms. Giraldo has learned more about the institutions teenagers navigate. She plans to turn the project into a website for students and educators — and to check in with her former subjects April and Desire, who are about to graduate from high school. “They taught me how to be a photographer, to be honest. How to capture intimacy, to spend time, to slow down, to be thoughtful,” Ms. Giraldo said. “They also made me a permateen.”
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