Joel Rosario
Joel Rosario
Maylen Ramirez
Kyle Maisonet
Felicitas Harrison

Featured Artists: Ryan Cardenas Condo, Jordan Cho-Wolfe, Adrienne C., Gabe, Audrey Grueber-Hoang, Felicitas Harrison, J.T.M.E., Emily Low, Gina Lynn, Kyle Maisonet, Ines Mignon, Elaine Nguyen, Maylen Ramirez Escobar, Jaevian Roberts, Joel Rosario, Aureliano Ruiz, Elizabeth Tejeda, Kyla Thomas, Dulce Trejo, Julez Vasquez

NYC Alphabets is a project generated by 9th & 10th grade visual arts students at Harvest Collegiate High School in Chelsea, Manhattan. It is directly inspired by photographer Wendy Ewald’s series American Alphabets and the way Ewald helps young people explore language, culture, and identity. Students reflected together on how language and the way we learn it can structure how we see and learn about ourselves. These self-portraits were an opportunity for the students to harness language in their own way – to emphasize how they see, define, and experience the world.

Each student-artist selected a letter and a corresponding word that in some way describes an aspect of how they see themselves (ex. hilarious, emerge, darkness, whatever, queer, loser, victorious). They were especially encouraged to reflect on “hidden” aspects of their identity that might be less immediately visible to others. Guided by their chosen word, students directed and photographed themselves, carefully considering what they wanted their artwork to express.

To create their final pieces, the student-artists learned about the process of cyanotype and used a photo negative of their self-portrait to expose a cyanotype on fabric. They included their letter, word, and any additional symbolism or imagery that they wanted. Ultimately, each fabric square was then embroidered with embellishments and stitched together into a classwide collaborative quilt. Shown here are the self-portrait works on paper.



Anonymous, Darkness:

My word was Darkness. I chose that word because I came out of nowhere. I wanted to stand out by using a negative word, while Daisy would’ve worked for me, but I chose Darkness. I would define Darkness as something that would be the opposite of brightness. Brightness is clear to see and has light, Darkness is something we can’t see.

Ashley Aguilar Arenas:

The word I used is Sabre. I chose this word because it interested me and I thought it was pretty cool. A sabre is a heavy sword with a curved blade that was used in the past by soldiers on horseback.

“Well, we must try our luck with a regulation sabre; they can’t well refuse it; ours is the stronger and bigger man.”

Ryan Cardenas Condo:

I chose the word male. I connected with my word as it identifies my gender and who I am.

Adrienne C.:

I chose the word animalistic because I thought the word would be fun to come up with different poses for. It also a fun word to say so I liked it. I connect to the word because everyone has some type of animal characteristic, and I feel like that humans and animals have a special bond that people express but don’t realize. I would describe animalistic as having animal qualities or characteristics.

“His behavior is very animalistic.”

Audrey Grueber-Hoang:

The word I chose was “brilliant.” I decided on “brilliant” because it makes me happy. It started out as a joke, I was joking with a classmate that I was brilliant and that’s why I chose the word, but I think it does kind of resonate with me. Brilliance, to me, means creativity, intelligence, and innovation. I like to believe that I possess those qualities, but I also strive to embody them more every day.

Felicitas Harrison:

The word I chose for my cyanotype project was “queer”. I chose this word because I identify as queer. Being queer means to be a part of the LGBTQ+ community. Some examples of ways to use the word queer is: “I am queer”, “that’s queer”, or “they’re queer”.


My letter was H and I knew from there I would pick my favorite word, Heriath. This word represents the feeling of homesickness to a home that never existed. This never “existed home” for me is in my books! Each book has a different world, plot characters and so much more that I get lost in. This is why I feel Heriath towards my books!

Emily Low:

In my cyanotype I chose to use the word “OMG” because it’s an abbreviation of the phrase “oh my god.” I can connect to my word because it’s a word that I say very often in usually every situation. The abbreviation “omg” starts with my letter, O. Originally I was going to choose a word that had a positive connotation, but I realized that the phrase “Oh my god” was a phrase that I say very often and I love saying it even if I don’t intend to. If I were to try and define my word I would say that it’s a way of expressing shock. This can be in a positive or negative denotation.

Omg, look at that!” with a positive tone in the “omg.” 

Or some people might say:

“Omg, look at that.” with a negative tone in the word “that.”

Gina Lynn:

I chose the word gorgeous. I chose this word because in that picture I felt gorgeous and that’s how I want to feel every time I look at that picture taken. I define my word as even prettier than pretty, someone who takes your breath away when you look at them and the first one coming to your mind would be gorgeous.

“I want to feel Gorgeous when I look in the mirror today.”

Ines Mignon:

I chose the word Ratatouille. I chose this because it’s one of my favorite movies, it’s an excellent dish, and I’m half French. In the movie Ratatouille is made with eggplant, zucchini, onion, tomato, and multiples spices, it’s a southern French classic.

Elaine Nguyen:

The word I chose is emerge. I chose this word because it was the first word that came to mind, and like other words, I figured “emerge” can be interpreted in many different ways. In my opinion, I thought it would be unique to interpret emerge as a fake personality emerging from your entire body, or your true identity slowly emerging from the tight suit you put on to fit in with society. I try to connect the real world with this idea, to show that there will always be multiples of one individual in a society because we’re scared that being ourselves won’t benefit us much when we grow up to be in different places. We are scared that people won’t like us, seeing as humanity is cruel and judgmental, we change ourselves from rust to diamond or sometimes we see something we like and we take it from others and make it ours. This is what “emerge” means to me, although it might be different and as simple as it is to others.

Jaevian Roberts:

I chose the word “uuhh” cause it describes me as a thinker which people in general think all day moving or not, eating or listening.

“Uuhh, I think I’ll choose that protein shake.”

Aureliano Ruiz:

The word victorious has a slightly more complicated meaning to me in the context of this piece than just one who succeeds and triumphs, its a feeling. A feeling that I would like to be able to achieve.

“I would like to one day feel victorious.”

Elizabeth Tejeda:

The word I chose is ice cream because I like to eat ice cream. It tastes good especially in the summer when its hot. The Way I connect with  my word is because I love to eat ice cream. It’s my favorite dessert.

Dulce Trejo:

The letter that I received was N and the word that I decided to work with was New York! This might be two words but I am deeply connected with this place so much!! This strong feeling of connection was what made me want to choose it. So let’s talk about why I connected so deeply with the words New York! For me, New York is a place that I can surely call home. It is the place that plays a big role in my life and identity. It is what made me who I am today! New York is my comfort place. It is the place where I was born in which also makes it a place th​at I’m proud to be of. The words New York are more than just a state for me. I would define the words of New york as a place where dreams come true. A place where you can be yourself and a place where you can live your life to the fullest!! It’s truly a magical wonderland.

“You will be able to make this happen, this is New York!”


  • Harvest Collegiate High School

    Harvest Collegiate High School

    Harvest Collegiate High School is a Title 1 public school located in Chelsea, Manhattan. As a part of the New York Performance Standards Consortium, students are exempted from most Regents Exams and instead demonstrate their learning through rigorous performance-based assessments.

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NYC Alphabets

 archive : 2023

Featuring: Various Artists

Curated by: erin reid

Presented by: Harvest Collegiate High School and Photoville, in partnership with Photowings
  • Harvest Collegiate High School
  • Photoville
  • PhotoWings


ON VIEW AT: Photocube 55

View Location Details Brooklyn Bridge Park – Emily Warren Roebling Plaza

1 Water St
Brooklyn, NY 11201

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Recipient of the 2023 Photoville & PhotoWings Educator Exhibition Grant

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