Throughout her career, Melissa Ann Pinney has observed the transitions from childhood to adulthood, especially those of young women. In 2018, she started documenting the culture and life unique to Chicago Public Schools. Pinney met Jael, the subject of this portrait, at Chicago’s Ogden International School’s west campus. “The students collaborate in the work by allowing me into their fierce and fragile world,” the photographer observes. Set in one of the school’s restrooms, the image grants insight into what Pinney calls that “liminal space between public and private.”
Jael’s pose is reflected in the mirror, drawing attention to our understanding of identity. The photograph’s play of mirrors also invites those coming before it to consider their own identities and how they perceive others.