"I Was In That Teen Angst Space, Confused About Where I Stood In Life."

"I’ve always been shooting teenaged girls," says artist Petra Collins, who's been behind the camera since the age of fifteen. "I started taking photos of myself and my peers. My work has evolved since then and I’ve looked at so many young girls' lives."

Those insights inform the work of Collins, a photographer and fashion designer from Toronto, whose portfolio speaks to the nuanced, unfiltered side of teenage girlhood. You can see her artistic vision brought to life at 29Rooms, an immersive, interactive, and socially driven event we're hosting in Brooklyn during New York Fashion Week in honor of our 10th birthday.

"I really wanted to make a bathroom, because it’s a place where we all go to get ourselves ready, look at ourselves, and think about our bodies," Collins tells R29.

Ahead, she walks us through some of the images and ideas that helped inspire the one-of-a-kind installation.

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Photo: Courtesy Petra Collins.
The bathroom is a space we think of as being very gendered. Did that factor into the way you constructed it?

"I used a lot of what we generally attribute to femininity. The whole bathroom’s pink and all the products are specifically marketed toward girls, so they’re pink and pretty and try not to offend you.

"But I put out an open call on Twitter and Tumblr for girls’ stories. I asked for a couple of sentences about what they wish they were told every day and then also what they hated or loved about themselves most. I wanted to contrast [the forced femininity] with the stories of these girls, what everyone really feels."
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Photo: Courtesy Petra Collins.
Do you look back at these photos and interpret them differently now from how you originally perceived them?

"It's really funny, because these are some of my oldest photos. It's just...for me, it's like looking back into my mind. A lot of my photos are pretty dark and I feel like that’s [because] I was in that teen angst space, confused about my body, confused about where I stood in life."
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Photo: Courtesy Petra Collins.
Is that a theme you’ve found throughout the conversations you’ve had with other girls?

"Yeah, it’s just always interesting to go through someone’s bedroom. [It's] like stepping into someone’s brain. I feel like I've always thought that your room reflects your mental state. So for me, when my room is really messy or when I have certain stuff on the wall, that’s what’s going on inside my head."
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Photo: Courtesy Petra Collins.
Do you think these images speak to the home space being gendered? And what is special about a girl’s bedroom?

"[My bedroom] was always a really safe space. I think that’s the most important thing in general, but for me as a teenage girl, that was my space to think, create, and remove myself from the world."
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Do you look back on these images now and feel like you're in a different headspace?

"I think [my work has] just grown as I’ve grown. My perspective has changed as I’ve changed. I don't know how much I can describe that, because it's something inside of me.

"When I started, I was just shooting my experience, but now I can include a more diverse group of people. I have been able to remove myself [from my images], so I can shoot the full spectrum of teenage girlhood."
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Photo: Courtesy Petra Collins.
A collection of quotes from the girls Collins interviewed, compiled and illustrated exclusively for 29Rooms.
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