Dear Youth, Photos & Moodboards
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How Female Friendship Saved My Life

by Sharon Patterson

valeria and flowers

pias hands

Growing up, I was an insecure, lonely child; I grew up in a farming town in Costa Rica called San Antonio de Escazu. I went to a small Adventist school from the age of four
until I was sixteen, when I graduated high school. That isn’t really common in Costa Rica, to stay in the same school through your basic education. Since I did, I only really
socialized with a small amount of people my own age, who were for the most part,
religious.

This created a gap between me and them, since I don’t necessarily believe in
God or church. I had “friends”, and I even had a boyfriend in high school, but it was difficult for me to feel included or comfortable as a part of a group of people. I didn’t ever consider anyone my “best friend”, nor did I try to fit in. I accepted the fact that I was different, but that made me feel rejected, insecure, ugly etc. Plus, I’m black, hairy, I’ve never been skinny, I suffer from anxiety and depression, and was a pretty socially awkward person.

All of this mixed together to make me feel alienated and alone.

rosamaria on a river

When I began college I was very scared, because art school ended up being 100% about
comparison, so every project I did was graded in comparison to the best one in my class.
As you can imagine, that did wonders for my self-esteem, since I’m not the best at
most things. I felt as if I was more alone than ever. I was immersed in a world no
one understood except for the people in it, and I was definitely not making friends
there.

Progressively, I became more interested in feminism and gender studies, and this changed the way I viewed myself and women in general, since I (at the time) thought of women as catty and dramatic (I was mistrustful of people in general to some extent). I started treating myself in a kinder, softer way. By not putting myself down constantly, I gathered the strength to talk to people in my school that I found interesting. Being open to new things and feeling a little more comfortable in my skin made me find the holy grail… female friendship. I started making female friends, and suddenly I was uninterested in all of the things that had made me self-conscious before: the male gaze,  and the things that males (supposedly) consider “attractive,” such as being thin, quiet, small and cute.

The world opened up to me.

I realized I was queer, beautiful, smart, funny and another million positive things. I started to feel accepted, and by extension, I accepted myself.

Creating with friends has probably been one of my favorite experiences, especially since
all of us are so different. I owe the world to my friends; my amazing friends, that for the
first time ever made me feel comfortable and part of something that I genuinely liked. Being accepted while being myself made me feel important, confident and valid. It was only when I truly understood the effect their friendship had on me, that I started to photograph them on a daily basis. They inspire me in so many ways, and I have grown so much with and because of them. My photos are a way for me to show them how much they mean to me.

mariela on the beach

These photographs depict them honestly; living their lives, being themselves. They’re not premeditated, nor edited. They’re all film photographs shot between 2015 and 2018.

I find strength in softness, femininity, sorority, partnership and in showing affection. I see beauty in them every single day, and that made me see beauty in myself, and for that I will be forever grateful. Their friendship saved me from a lifetime of insecurity, loneliness and self-rejection, and even though I still have mental health issues (and probably always will), having people your own age that you feel genuine reciprocal love and affection for and from can literally give you back your life.

Make sure to check out Sharon’s blog, here.

pia drawing

elena and mariela

chinese dinner with Elena

valeria and fruit

Rosamaria on her birthday

valeria on a river

Korean dinner with Rosamariamar and elenacamping with RosamariaValeria y pia

Mariela

Rosamaria on the ocean

Elena and Pia on Elenas birthday

Rosamaria

rosamaria on the ocean2Chineese take out dinner

1 Comment

  1. This is a beautiful post and you are finding your voice. It is a resonant one. Keep expressing who you are! As a man, I cannot imagine a world without the voice of women- in all its inflections and tones.

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