The series, Girl Ascending, began with my photograph of a girl seemingly suspended in mid-air, holding onto a chain-link fence with one hand, her dress lifted by the breeze. The circumstances are commonplace: a baseball game, nondescript buildings and a dirt field seen through the fence. Nevertheless, the improbable levitation and serene demeanor of the girl suggested the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary to one, raised, as I was, on the symbolic imagery of Catholicism. I am interested in the passage of time, the cycle of the seasons, girls’ friendships and their ties to the elders who guide them. The images that most intrigue me are epiphanies, in which the ordinary reveals an underlying significance.
This project focuses on a touchstone moment in the lives of American women and girls: their emergence from protected youth to public maturity. From a core series of photographs of my daughter, Emma, the project has swirled out though friends and classmates, past their families, neighborhoods, social rituals, and community lives to develop a study of emerging female identity with all its promises and perils.