Thought-Provoking Photos of a Young Girl Growing Up Fast

From Toddlers and Tiaras to middle-aged moms who look like teenagers thanks to the magic of plastic surgery, the line between little girls and mature women is quickly eroding. In a project that began when she was still in high school and has grown, over the past six years, to become her School of Visual Arts thesis, photographer Jessica Maria Manley has created a series of beautiful but disturbing photos of her younger sister, Melissa, that illustrate this trend. An attempt to, as Manley writes, “explore the way media influences the understanding of ‘normal’ in young girls, and how it creates delusional ideals,” the pictures dramatize the tensions between a young girl’s world (stuffed animals, school buses) and the popular images of adult women that they subconsciously integrate into their own identities. We see Melissa sitting on a bench with luggage, dressed all in black, as though she’s running away from something unspeakably sad; in another photo, she’s posed at a table with a glass of wine, exuding the sophisticated poise of a woman three times her age. Click through to see some of our favorite images from the series, visit Manley’s portfolio for more, and consider donating to the Melissa Kickstarter project to help this promising young artist launch her career.

Photo credit: Jessica Maria Manley