January 2024

teen voices

Focus on the Future

written by Elizangi Araujo

AFH Teen Photographer Kailen Mendes

“From the moment I stepped in, I felt at home. This is where I want to be, this is where I want to work,'' says AFH teen photographer Kailen Mendes.

Kailen has always been intrigued by photography, particularly by how a camera works and the mechanics behind it. He started off with a phone camera, but wanted the feel and experience of a ‘real’ camera.

When he finally got his first camera, he immediately started taking photos of anything that caught his eye, and he instantly fell in love with photography.

Photo taken by AFH Teen Photographer Kailen MendesA photograph taken by Mendes.

Driven by his love for photography, Kailen created a photography club with his friend hoping to share and spread their love for photography with other students. Club members are passionate about learning how to use a camera and deepening their understanding of the art behind taking photographs.

Then, Kailen found AFH, thanks to his mother. After finding various videos about AFH online, she showed him the AFH's website. After exploring the site and discovering the Photography Studio, he was sold. He signed up for the Open House and took a tour of the building, getting a taste of what it would be like to work here day-to-day. And his mother has been supporting him every step of the way since.

A senior at Newman High School, Kailen is one of AFH’s newest teens joining the Photography Studio this past summer. During the summer months, teens in AFH’s Photography Studio wandered Boston taking pictures of the built and natural environment, the skyline and streetscapes.

The best part about this project for Kailen was the welcoming environment from the other teens. He notes that they’ve been supportive of his work and offer reassurance when he starts to feel doubtful. This reassurance is prominent when Kailen talks about his struggles with editing his work. He explains that sometimes it doesn’t turn out the way he intended and some photos are harder to edit. He has overcome this by simple trial and error, “The editing process is something that just takes time.” 

Photo taken by AFH Teen Photographer Kailen MendesA photograph taken by Mendes.

When asked what his personal style is, Kailen says he takes a lot of background photography, pictures of plants, streets, and buildings.

He hopes to take enough great photos to start building his college portfolio. He wants his portfolio to have a theme, with a focus on black excellence in Boston. Kailen has a list of schools he plans to apply to when the time comes, such as Lesley University, Emerson College, and New York University, which are all high on his radar. 

When he gets to college, he wants to start his own photography business, focusing on event photography. But for now, he’s making sure that he gets good grades, helping out in his school’s community, and doing a lot of extracurricular activities to build up a good resume to go along with his portfolio for when he applies. Being at AFH is helping him on this journey.

AFH Teen Photographer Kailen MendesPhotographs taken by Mendes.

When asked about his favorite part about being at AFH, Kailen says that he likes everything, but...

“...It’s definitely the people—being around people that do what you do and share the same love for what you do. It’s a really inspiring place.”

This is what motivates Kailen to really put more effort into his craft. And AFH is the place that inspires and motivates him to do so.

Thank you to our supporters, including:

The Lynch Foundation
National Endowment for the Arts
Sustaining Grants - Cummings Foundation - Cummings Foundation
State Street
John Hancock - MLK Scholars
Stavros Niarchos Foundation
Mass Cultural Council
The Wilson Sheehan Foundation
Wellington Management
Liberty Mutual Insurance
Ann Theodore Foundation
edvestors - Driving Change in Urban Schools