The Walls Come Crumbling Down

Text by Katy McCarthy | Photos by Andrew Wilkinson It was difficult enough to harness my limited focus in High School with sturdy walls around me. I did my learning at New Technology High, a magnet school in Napa, Calif. that focused on empowering students with 21st-century skills like digital design and programming. Lots of our classrooms were portables, but at least they were solid. At Trenton Central High School in New Jersey, where the ceilings are literally crumbling and the auditorium is condemned, I wonder how anything gets done at all. What is it like to attend high school in […]

The Anonymous People

Text by Daryl Khan | Photos by Robert Stolarik EAST HARTFORD, Conn. — On a recent grey Saturday morning, a quiet fell over the sparse audience seated in a vocational school assembly hall as Kimberly Beauregard stepped up to the stage. She was introducing the movie to a small audience of three dozen, who had endured a brutally cold morning and a wicked ice storm to come to see. After a few words greeting the crowd and thanking them for their intrepid spirit braving the treacherous conditions to make it to the screening, she praised the movie they were about […]

The Kids for Cash Scandal

Text by Daryl Khan | Photos by Robert Stolarik WILKES-BARRE, Pa. — After a few beers one evening in the mid-1960s, Mark Ciavarella, in high school at the time and applying the kind of inexplicable logic that experts say is typical of many teens whose brains have not fully developed, conspired to steal a car and go for a joyride with his cousin and a friend. A detective noticed the teenagers suspiciously lingering around the car and pulled over. Ciavarella’s friend and his cousin darted away, but Ciavarella was not so lucky. The detective nabbed him and threw him in […]

Hurting in Harlem

Text by Daryl Khan | Photos by Robert Stolarik The killing of 18-year-old Tayshana Murphy on an early morning in 2011 has led to a series of retaliatory beatings, stabbings and shootings between the Manhattanville and Grant Houses in Harlem. This historical beef has turned into internecine warfare between the two sides, creating one of the bloodiest and most violent feuds in the city.  Update June 4, 2014: Dozens Arrested in Gang Raid at Harlem Housing Projects NEW YORK — The father of the dead girl takes a look at the brown painted door and shakes his head with contempt. He’s […]

White House Boys

Text by James Swift | Photos by Daniel LeClair MARIANNA, Fla. — The Florida School for Boys housed kids for six decades before Michael Tucker was sent there. An “incorrigible youth,” Tucker arrived at the facility, nestled deep in the woodlands of the Florida panhandle, in 1960. He was 16 years old. There, Tucker received three severe beatings, he says, one of which left him hospitalized for five days. “They decided to send me off and straighten me out,” Tucker, who is now 69, said. “They sent me up there, and beat the hell out of me.” Tucker worked in […]

Damon’s Fix: A Young Heroin Addict’s Journey from Injection to Incarceration

Text by Katy McCarthy | Photos by © Djamila Grossman, Standard- Examiner When photographer Djamila Grossman met Damon Conrow in 2010 he was 26-years-old and had been addicted to heroin for seven years. At that point, he told her he didn’t even get high when he shot up anymore, he just became normal. “I just get better now. I don’t get high. I feel a rush when I put it in but that’s like three seconds and it’s done, and then I’m just normal, like you are,” he told her. In a series of incredibly difficult-to-look-at photos and videos, Grossman […]

Sandy Hook One Year on

Text by Daryl Khan | Photos by Robert Stolarik NEWTOWN, Conn. — Nearly one year after the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School, the town has struggled to reclaim its identity as a quaint New England town. A “Welcome to Sandy Hook” sign of angels hung along highway 34. Sandy Hook Elementary School has been razed. The process of destroying the school — where last year Adam Lanza, a socially awkward 20-year old, massacred 20 first-grade students and six teachers and staff in a matter of minutes — began earlier in the year and is now nearly complete. It was […]

In and Out of the Boxing Ring, Two Men Confront Very Different Demons

Text by Daryl Khan | Photos by Robert Stolarik On a bitterly cold winter January morning in 2008, Adam Friedman and Alvin Valentine, friends and co-workers, climbed into a Brooklyn boxing ring and proceeded to go after each other for three hard-hitting rounds. There was nothing particularly artful about what transpired in those grunting six minutes. Some solid blows were landed, there were no knock-outs, and, thankfully, no blood. It was one fight of probably dozens that transpired that day. But for both men, the boxing match represented something very different. For Alvin, a Blood gang leader and longtime inmate, […]

Young Incarcerated Photographers Make Magic in Photos

Text by Katy McCarthy | Photos by AS 220 Participants How do you make magic in a place where there is none? In Rhode Island a photography program inside of a youth detention center is asking just that. In the striking images from AS 220’s “If these walls could talk,” the magic made is not an illusion. Like a surrealist painting, the manipulated photos employ metaphor and symbol to create dynamic portraits. Two students pose with giant light wings blossoming out behind them: Her’s white and linear, his multi-colored confetti-like squiggles. We all know the myth of Icarus. If you […]

From Russia & Ukraine, Police & the Young They Brutalize

Text by Katy McCarthy | Photos by Donald Weber I have made the most miserable flipbook. Using the arrow keys on my computer, I am clicking through three images of a young woman being interrogated. In the first image, she holds her hands near her face protectively, but loosely. She has make-up smears under her tired eyes. Click. In the second, her brown bangs hang in her face as if something or someone had roughly tousled her hair; her arm definitively wrapped around herself. Her aggressor is visible now, a man’s mouth and nose peering into the top right corner. […]

In ‘Vernon’s World,’ a Young Photographer Documents the Life of a Homeless Teenager

Text by Gwen McClure | Photos by Sam Wilson Unaccustomed to the cold, hard floor in his spot next to the door of the public bathrooms in Trenton, Missouri, Sam Wilson, 22, slept badly. In a stall next to him, Vernon Foster, 18, didn’t have the same trouble. By the time Foster woke, Wilson had been in a state somewhere between sleep and wakefulness for hours, apologizing to the morning walkers as they filtered through the bathroom, surprised to see two young boys asleep on the floor. “It’s totally weird for people to open up the bathroom door and see […]

A Transteen’s Story: Respecting the Pronoun

Text and photos by Name Withheld When I was born, the doctor dictated the way I would live the rest of my life simply by proclaiming “It’s a girl” to my excited and tired parents. Those four words would determine which pronouns people addressed me by, the social standards I would be expected to live up to, how I would be expected to dress, and which bathroom I’d be expected use, among many other things – until 16 years later when I would come out to friends and some of my family as trans non-binary (See Glossary). For 16 years […]


Text by Daryl Khan | Photos by Robert Stolarik NEW YORK– Years ago, before the pilings had gone rotten and jagged like a row of rotten teeth, the piers were still lined with abandoned houseboats. At a time when gay sex was illegal, this was a busy pick-up spot. The empty homes gave cover from the elements and a semblance of privacy. Sometimes a boat’s floor gave way, and its occupants would drown in the Hudson River. Still, for gay men and trans teens, the block at the end of the West Village was a refuge from a hostile culture. […]

Capturing Captivity From the Inside

Text by Katy McCarthy | Photos by Fresh Eyes participants Without context, or if you glance only briefly, the photographs from the Fresh Eyes Project seem dull, banal. With a closer look, you note climb-proof fencing in the background of one photo and barred windows in several others. If by that point you’re still wondering what’s going on, here’s the big reveal: these were all made by juvenile inmates in three New Mexico youth correctional facilities. The images are startlingly anonymous — no faces, no full names or details like family photos and no books. And yet, even the simplicity […]

Mapping [beautiful, ugly, scary, safe and unsafe] in Photos.

View AjA Project Speak City Heights Land Use Map in a larger map [two_third] [pullquote]Text by Katy McCarthy / Photos by AjA Project participants[/pullquote] What is safe? For Oscar H., age 14, it is a path trekked by school-bound children in backpacks. Kenia P., 12, identifies a safe area as the blue plastic-coated tables of an elementary school. For many, safe is simply an un-cracked section of sidewalk, a crosswalk or a grassy space. Beautiful. Ugly. Scary. Safe. Unsafe. Words that describe places you go, or try to avoid. Adjectives to map your neighborhood by—which is just what young people living […]

Young Seattlelites See Their City in Pixels

[new_royalslider id=”3″]   [two_third] [pullquote]Text by Katy McCarthy / Photos by Youth in Focus participants[/pullquote]There is one small giveaway in XD Liu’s photo that this image was seemingly created decades ago: A young man in the bottom left corner is holding a cell phone. It’s subtle, and if you miss it, you are in that time 20 years ago when things were a bit quieter in Seattle. There is a pervasive nostalgia across this gorgeous group of photographs created by young Seattleites with Youth In Focus. They harken back to a slower time in the city’s history, before the shiny […]

I’m done when I say I’m done and I’m done

[two_third] [Juvenile In Justice is a Guggenheim-award winning project by world renowned photographer Richard Ross to photograph and interview youth in juvenile detention centers across the U.S. Installments from the project appear weekly on Bokeh.] I broke into Goodwill because I was so cold. I did PCP for two days, then I broke into Goodwill because I was so cold. I was on house arrest for two days for Marijuana. I’ve been here twice. On this trip I was here a week. First time I was here two weeks— also when I was 17. I have 23 more days here then I’m on […]

We Are a Diverse and Colorful Portland

[new_royalslider id=”2″] [two_third] [pullquote] Text by Katy McCarthy, Photos courtesy of My Story[/pullquote]When I think of Portland, I see androgynous hipsters in denim, drinking fiery espressos under grey skies. However, My Story, a Portland-based mobile arts organization, is changing that picture for me. Since 2006, My Story has given low-income Portland youth the opportunity to explore their world and their community through photography. Today, they work with approximately 200 young people annually. However, My Story didn’t expect to turn into quite a successful operation. The group’s humble origin entails posting a simple ad on a local list service that read, […]

They Didn’t Believe Me…

[two_third] [Juvenile In Justice is a Guggenheim-award winning project by world renowned photographer Richard Ross to photograph and interview youth in juvenile detention centers across the U.S. Installments from the project appear weekly on Bokeh.] “The Public Defender is always busy and doesn’t have much time for me. I’m not nervous. I’m accepting what happens.” [pullquote]Photo by Richard Ross[/pullquote]I’ve been here two months. I turn 18 in a month. I’m not sure what happens… a lot depends on what happens Monday. I may be sent to live with my older cousin, or sent to YCAT (Youth Center at Topeka), State pen (state penitentiary), […]

One Photographer’s Long Witnessing of Stop and Frisk

[two_third] [pullquote] Text by Daryl Khan / Photos by Robert Stolarik [/pullquote] Before June 2010, when Robert Stolarik visited the Brownsville Houses for an assignment for the New York Times to cover what was being touted as a new anti-crime policy implemented by the NYPD, he had never heard of Stop and Frisk. At first, Stolarik was skeptical of what residents were saying about the controversial policy. Mothers pushing strollers in courtyards stopped by police officers for no apparent reason. Teens walking to a friend’s house along the path from one building to another stopped and searched and summonsed. Middle […]

I started coming in when I was 11

[two_third] I’m from Wyandotte, Kansas. I’m a “brother” of D.F. We both been here for a while. We are probably going to the same place, a YCAT for a couple of years. This is the 10th time I’m here. I started coming in when I was 11. First time—I don’t really remember … I think it was a fight at school. Couple of times for fighting — aggression stuff. I have been in foster homes. Had trouble at school. One time at school I almost fought a security guard. Mom is from Mexico and my Dad is black. The state […]

[Youth Report] In Atlanta, An Exploration of The New Family Normal

[scrollGallery id= 35] [two_third] [pullquote]Text by Katy McCarthy, Photos by Dani Planer[/pullquote]I visited Atlanta for the first time in April 2013. Coming from the San Francisco Bay Area, I felt simultaneously at home in the diversity of the city and far away in the humid, hustling winds of the south. Everything about Atlanta spoke of a long, deep-rooted history of families, success, poverty, change, fusion, evolution and culture. Dani Planer is a young photographer based in the heart of the South’s biggest, bravest city. In 2010, at the age of 14, Dani created (with co-producer Devin Black) a poignant and […]

My whole family is drug abusers and criminals

[two_third] “I’m from Johnson County. I’ve been here 4 months. I’ve been in seven times. First charge was damage to property—aiding and abetting (fleeing from cops) when I was 12-years old. My Mom came to see me. She comes every weekend from Lawrence. It’s about a 30-45 minute drive. She’s unemployed. Dad works in Olathe and visits every weekend. He works at a warehouse. I have two brothers. One is 15—in jail at Douglas County- battery and grand theft auto. The 13 year old is on ISP (intense supervised probation.) I have a 19-year-old sister who is finished with her […]

City Heights Youth Shed Light on San Diego’s Streetlight Problem

[scrollGallery id= 34] [two_third] [pullquote] Text by Megan Burks, Photos by students with the The AjA Project[/pullquote]When Rosario Iannacone steps outside her father’s home after dark, she shudders with the memory of her close call with a stranger. If Esperanza Gonzalez must go out at night, she leaves her purse at home and runs to her destination. Ana Lilia Gutierrez won’t let her kids roam the neighborhood at night after a car slow-rolled her near an inky neighborhood park. The three City Heights women spoke with photojournalist Sam Hodgson last month about how San Diego’s lack of streetlights – Councilwoman […]

Straight and Sober… Now

[two_third] “I’m from over toward Missouri. My dad came to visit today and my mom is coming tomorrow with my great grandma. This is my first time in detention and I’ve only been here a week… I’m here for destruction of property. I had court on the 12th and I’ll be put in ACT (Adolescent Center for Treatment, a residential facility for youth with substance use problems) for 28 Days. I’ll go there but I have to wait for a bed to open up first. I have a theft case pending— a drug related paraphernalia charge. I was on probation […]

A Day at the Beach Through an Artistic, Autistic Lens

[scrollGallery id= 32] [two_third][pullquote]Photography by Akeem Bonaparte, text by Katy McCarthy[/pullquote] Across the country, youth photo programs have put cameras in the hands of young people to help them find their voice while capturing and engaging with the communities they live in. Akeem Bonaparte, a 21-year-old photographer with autism and a penchant for documenting his city, can testify to this. A Harlem native born and reared, he still lives in the same neighborhood with his parents and his brother. Akeem’s parents are Trinidadian immigrants and he speaks with a beautiful Harlem accent fused with an island lilt.   For the […]

Perps or Pupils? Safety Policy Creates Prison-like New York City Schools

[scrollGallery id=31 template=caption] [two_third] [pullquote]Text by Daryl Khan, Photographs by Robert Stolarik[/pullquote]When Minerva Dickson (pictured in yellow skirt) first saw her high school she thought it looked like a prison. After her first week she realized how right her initial impressions were. Every day when she arrived at the Thomas Jefferson Campus in Brownsville, Brooklyn, she waited in a line that snaked out onto Pennsylvania Avenue. She would shuffle up two steps passing beneath words from Abraham Lincoln inscribed on the neo-classical pediment: “Let Reverence for the Laws Become the Political Religion of the Nation.” Next, she reached into her […]

[Youth Report] NYC through 17-year-old Merelyn’s lens

[scrollGallery id=30] [two_third] [pullquote]Photography and Text by Merlyn Bucio, as part of NYC Salt [/pullquote] My name is Merelyn Bucio. I am 17-years-old. I’ve lived in NYC almost all my life. I love what the city has to offer, from the sunset cutting between the sky scrapers to the man in his underwear on rollerskates. Rarely people take the time to see it all, and I want to show them, through my lens, what they might miss on any given day in this crazy city. NYC Salt is a non-profit photography program for inner-city teenagers in New York City. Their […]

Changing Confinement Culture in Olathe, Kansas

[scrollGallery id=29] [two_third] [pullquote] Text and Photographs by Richard Ross [/pullquote] Olathe, Kansas is a suburb of Kansas City, but with its own unique issues. The Juvenile Detention center is divided into two parts, the older institution and a newer, LEED platinum certified facility across the street. I visited Olathe last month and photographed at both facilities. The older facility is divided into pods, two levels, with architecture you would expect after viewing any recent TV movie with punishment as a subject. Cells with metal doors, some with pass through traps, small windows, concrete floors, cot-like beds, steel sinks and […]

[Youth Report] Bokeh Publishes the Work of NYC Teens

Text by Bokeh Focus Staff | Photos NYC Salt What does N.Y.C. look like through the eyes of its teenage inhabitants? 17-year-old Merelyn Bucio describes it this way, “I’ve lived in NYC almost all my life. I love what this city has to offer, from the sunsets cutting between the skyscrapers to the man in his underwear on roller skates. Rarely people take the time to see it all, and I want to show them through my lens, what they might miss on any given day in this crazy city.” Merelyn is a participant in NYC Salt— a non-profit organization putting […]