I’ve known these women since they were girls, placed in Child Protective Services and wards of the state. I was their group home staff, and they were my clients. I’ve been taking photos of them since they were preteens in some cases, and it’s been a privilege to be allowed into their world. Since I don’t have family in Arizona, I consider them my surrogate family when I am spending time in the state. All of them have had kids in the past decade, and I get to hold their children and then give them back when I am tired.
These women have been my muses for photo projects and fictional film projects for class, and have allowed me to make a short documentary about their lives (Take Me Wherever You Go). They have let me in on their struggles, the tough choices they make, and their happy occasions. They have fed me, played cards with me, and been incredible examples of fortitude in the face of adversity. In exchange, I have photographed portraits they can share with their circle and have shared my life advice, like an older sister.
I remember when my boss at my group home job accused me of “not caring enough about the girls.” However, they were about the only thing I did care about in all the bureaucracy of navigating a system which depersonalizes and fails its clients. In my photography and in my life, I work hard to come from a place of love. I know these women are vulnerable, and I photograph them as I would my own family, despite our different backgrounds and upbringings.