Four teenage photographers walk eagerly into the IPSY studio to begin their mentorship with our creative team. You could see the wheels turning in their minds as they planned out their first product flat lay. Enrolled in the CEO program at Las Fotos Project (LFP), these students call Los Angeles home. This program offers its mentees first-hand experiences working as a photographer in the industry.
LFP amplifies the voices of teens in communities of color by providing a space for creativity and self-expression. Through their journey, the students learn to celebrate the value of their individuality while simultaneously developing the skills and courage to compete in their future careers.
As part of its commitment to empower and invest in the Latinx community, IPSY is proud to be the premiere sponsor of LFP’s 3rd Annual Foto Awards. The power of women photographers will be recognized as IPSY makes its mark as the first ever title sponsor.
As I watched their confidence grow the moment they picked up the camera for the first time, I went back to my days as a teenager with a dream. I thought about what self-esteem meant to me at their age, and how I grouped confidence with beauty so heavily. Much of how beauty was defined then was through the lens of appearance. These determined students already possess so much bold creativity and innovation—a newfound beauty you can't buy. And it’s that learned behavior of self-worth that is redefining beauty with confidence.
"As an organization, our hope is that students feel confident in their own abilities not only in terms of photography knowledge and skills but most importantly in terms of appreciating themselves, confident in the knowledge that their ideas, and voices matter in their community and in this world,” says Helen Alonzo Hurtado, of LFP.
If a stranger asked you to describe yourself, what would you say? Defining ourselves requires processing and practicing. Most of us strive to live authentically, but how do we do that if we don’t fully understand who we are yet?
The students of Las Fotos Project use art as a form of self-reflection. The nonprofit organization launched its initial program, Esta Soy Yo, to introduce teen girls to the transformational power of photography. Translated to "This Is Me," the program lives up to its name by creating an outlet for students to explore their identities and reinforce personal development.
Founder Eric V. Ibarra was originally inspired by a therapeutic photography methodology. "Participatory Photography is a creative modality that asks participants to analyze their personal and social landscapes through the lens of photography. This process of self-exploration is designed to validate and empower the participants’ perspective,” says Lucia Torres, Executive Director of LFP.
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We’re calling it Mentorship Is the New Relationship Goals. The students of Las Fotos Project are challenged to forge healthy relationships in all areas of their lives. But the ones in support of their careers are key. The motivation they receive from these connections is unmatched. Especially coming from those that understand what they’re fighting for.
"With many of our mentors, teaching artists, and staff having experienced what it means to lack opportunities, the organization has rallied around uplifting these girls and their communities to ensure they have equitable access to arts education, professional development, and are included in the general narrative of our collective history,” Torres says.
You can feel the rich culture of Los Angeles and the Latino community within this organization. They take pride in honoring their history. Seeing the students take on social issues with just as much passion as their leaders shows how committed they are to the program. The best part? They’re manifesting a generation that has a blueprint for change.
When the global pandemic led to stay-at-home orders, most of us faced unprecedented challenges. LFP helped master the art of pushing through by highlighting the importance of mental health and the emotional well-being of their students. They took a beyond-the-classroom approach to reinforce the sense of community within the organization. Teachers and directors listened to the students' needs as their art became a pivotal tool to cope with new struggles. The semester was even extended to give students extra time to focus on their creative visions as they adjusted to new routines.
Torres continues their sentiments: "We value the trust our students have had with mentors, teaching artists, and staff as we have all tried to maintain a sense of normalcy during these unprecedented times."
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Very often, when we discuss inclusion in the beauty industry, we think of diversity. Opportunities and resources are also a huge part of that conversation as we know they are not dispersed equally. It's impossible to celebrate diversity in this industry without at first acknowledging the growing need for more women of color behind the scenes. We call out the status quo by honoring the authenticity of women of color like the teens at LFP. Investing in their future is how we reshape the narrative of equity.
Personally, the only push I had as a teenager to express myself was writing. However, I never felt confident in exploring that outlet. Partly my own doing as I shied away from sharing this part of me.
Fortunately, the students at LFP have a different story. They’re surrounded by positive influences that inspire them to pursue their aspirations with confidence. Don’t be surprised if you find them breaking barriers and boldly forging their own paths. Because that’s what real beauty is about. Beauty is boundless.
Inspired by Las Fotos Project and want to channel your own creativity? Take our Beauty Quiz now to get started with your own IPSY Glam Bag. Already an Ipster? Refer your friends to earn points, which you can use toward products. Either way, don’t forget to check us out on Instagram and Twitter @IPSY.
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