What it means to be 15 and female, anywhere...

What it means to be 15 and female, anywhere...

A visual mixtape — Coming of age is a tricky business, whether you’re born in Brooklyn or the Middle East. But as photographer Ilana Panich-Linsman shows, some strands of adolescence stay the same no matter where you are.

Adolescence, with all its chemical shifts, is universal. Yet its manifestations differ according to context.

I photographed 15-year-old girls from Brooklyn, New York, because I was curious about this moment when the push and pull of childhood and adulthood can be equally strong.

It’s when a girl begins to define herself as a woman. I became curious about cultural differences in this age group, so I followed the idea from Brooklyn to Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon and Jordan.

While it may seem like an obvious comparison, I’ve never seen the two sets of photographs juxtaposed as they are before you here.

These images have ceased functioning as interplay between my eye, my subjects and myself; they’ve become a dialogue revealing religious, political, social and cultural differences and similarities between two small corners of female teenage culture.

Each pairing of images has been matched with a song, which you can listen to as a mix on Spotify.

The Slits – Typical Girls


Top: Katie (15) and friends sit in Libby’s bedroom in Park Slope, Brooklyn, an upper-middle-class section of New York City.

Bottom: Manam (20), Manar (23), Fidaa (18), and Khitam (13), four sisters from Wadi Dawasit, Saudi Arabia, sit in their room in Gaza Camp, Jerash, Jordan – home to more than 20,000 Gazan refugees.

Bikini Kill – Rebel Girls


Top: Hannah (15) smokes a cigarette outside a music venue in Manhattan,
New York City.

Bottom: Riham Al-Quesi (16) at her home in Beddowi camp, Tripoli, Lebanon.

Paul Simon – Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard


Top:Hannah (15) and Libby (15) embrace in front of their former elementary school in Park Slope, Brooklyn.

Bottom: A young girl adjusts her hijab outside an elementary school run by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA).

Nirvana – Bloom


Top: Libby performs a cartwheel in Prospect Park, Brooklyn, where she and her friends often hang out.

Bottom: A teenager waves over a wall at Jerash Camp.

The Smiths – Please, Please, Please, Let Me Get What I Want


Top: Libby dresses for school. She attends a rigorous high school in Park Slope and plans to go to college.

Bottom: Shahanez (13) was born in Gaza Camp. Her family came from Ramla in Palestine.

Shahanaz loves school and hopes to become a doctor, but will not be able to do so unless her legal status as a refugee changes, thereby affording her the same rights as local citizens.

Beastie Boys – Fight For Your Right (To Party)


Top: Hannah smoking at a party with her boyfriend.

Bottom: A girl laughs with friends. Young Muslim women in the camps rarely spend time with boys from outside their own families.

Deftones – Be Quiet and Drive (Far Away)


Top:Katie (15) rides the subway home from school every day, alone or with friends.

Bottom: Mona Mhmad Al Masri (15) at her home in Burj El-Barajneh camp in the outskirts of Beirut, Lebanon.

Against Me! – Pretty Girls (The Mover)


Top: Hannah checks herself in the mirror at a party.

Bottom: Saher Taweh (21), Ruba (20) and Kamar Wakad (18) chat with Wafaa Zeid (17) while they take turns applying makeup to one another during a beauty class held by UNRWA in Beddowi Camp, Tripoli, Lebanon.

Weezer – Smart Girls


Top: Libby studies for her classes while her father prepares dinner in Brooklyn.

Bottom: Girls take notes in class at an UNRWA school in Beddowi Camp, Tripoli, Lebanon.

Find out more about Ilana Panich-Linsman’s Fifteen project or listen to the above mix on Spotify.

This article originally appeared in Huck 33 – The Identity IssueSubscribe today to make sure you never miss another issue.

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