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No Parents: Cassandra Giraldo's Photographs of Brooklyn Youth

It's like a blast back to the middle-school days in the Instagram photography of Cassandra Giraldo.

Summer vacation is truly over for some. High fives, hand shakes & hugs abound as #NYC heads back to school today. #theafterschoolproject Photo by @cassandragiraldo

A photo posted by The After School Project (@afterschoolproject) on Sep 9, 2015 at 8:20am PDT

In the time between when Brooklyn high schools' last period bells sound and dinnertime, photojournalist Cassandra Giraldo captures, on her Instagram, the borough’s youth in their “magic hours of freedom,” far away from the watchful eyes of teachers and parents. “I knew, generally speaking, that I had always been drawn to documenting youth culture,” explains Giraldo of how her series, The After School Project, came about. “From Russian punks in St. Petersburg or two 13-year-old American girls in their last year of junior high, I feel the most comfortable photographing young people,” she adds. “So as I began to accumulate images of teens after school I realized I had nowhere to take them and that's where Instagram came in. I had been getting such great reactions whenever I posted the pictures onto my personal account that I realized that perhaps the images could stand on their own on their own platform.”


Happy #Monday, kids! Here are Raquelle & Alonzo, both age 15. #theafterschoolproject

A photo posted by The After School Project (@afterschoolproject) on Oct 6, 2014 at 1:37pm PDT

In shooting young students, the photographer, whose project was a finalist for this year’s Getty Images Instagram Grant, says she has discovered a lot about Brooklyn teens. “We don't give teens enough credit. We forget how smart and thoughtful they are. I always admire their ability to unabashedly be themselves,” Giraldo tells The Creators Project. “They're not sullied by the pressures of adulthood and yet they're in such a hurry to get older! That tension is what interests me most. Especially New York City kids. They are so mature right out of the gate,” adds the 26-year-old Los Angeles native.

From left to right: Mimmi Azad, 10th grade, and 12th graders Rehab Mohhamed, Tazmina Khair, Aysha Chaudhry and Binita Vaman (out of frame) catch up on a stoop across the street from school. #theafterschoolproject #Brooklyn

A photo posted by The After School Project (@afterschoolproject) on May 15, 2015 at 12:18pm PDT

The images also documents the diversity of the youth and their interests. The images posted online show the teenagers climbing trees, hugging their respective boyfriends and girlfriends, and at times being awkward. “On the anthropological level, I love feeling like the ethnographer of a young tribe, but also just enjoy the natural rapport I feel with my young subjects. Both these aspects allow for me to melt away into the background in order to capture the natural moments,” she says. “In between my work assignments, I would always catch myself taking portraits of teens in the city and I realized I had a wealth of youth right in front of me to work with.” Giraldo lives right across the street from one of the largest New York City public high schools.


Back in 2011 (3/5), best friends April and Desire stay out past their after school curfew at a Burger King in Sheepshead Bay, #Brooklyn. Today I'm looking back at the girls who inspired the #afterschoolproject

A photo posted by The After School Project (@afterschoolproject) on Jun 19, 2015 at 10:29am PDT

April and Desire and a male friend.

Giraldo says a photograph from 2011—an image of high school students, April and Desire, packed into a Burger King booth with a young male friend after in order to delay curfew and going home after seeing a movie—describes perfectly the ethos of her project. “I met the two girls in the same way I meet the ‘after school kids’ on my Instagram account. I saw a gaggle of bubbly girls walking toward Atlantic Mall in Brooklyn, which stopped me in my tracks,” says the photographer. “I knew I had to photograph them. After talking with them a bit, I started taking their pictures and getting to know their stories. April and Desire were the most talkative and immediately drew my attention. It was that one after school moment that began a more in depth exploration of these two girls lives as they come of age as 13-year-olds. Giraldo documented the girls' lives for a year after meeting them on the Brooklyn streets.

"Sucks doing work cause summer vibe is almost here." Sophomores Minhaz, Yash and Tammy sit together and commiserate about school on a neighborhood stoop in #FortGreene on Wednesday, June 3, 2015x #theafterschoolproject #brooklyn #cujphotopt

A photo posted by The After School Project (@afterschoolproject) on Jun 5, 2015 at 1:59pm PDT


Urban Assembly freshman Kourdye, William and Cameron climb a tree in #FortGreene Park on a Wednesday afternoon. School's almost out! #theafterschoolproject #Brooklyn #cujphotopt

A photo posted by The After School Project (@afterschoolproject) on Jun 3, 2015 at 2:53pm PDT

Click here to follow Cassandra Giraldo's After School Project on Instagram.

The After School Project is on view apart of Instagram’s photo exhibition, Curioser and Curioser: Down the Rabbit Hole with the Instagram Community, at Photoville through September 20th. For more information on the exhibition, click here.


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