In the Arizona desert, the sun sets over a stoic girl in a fringed, beaded robe, her hair bedecked with feathers. In Pennsylvania, giddy young things in satin and sequins pile into a limo, corsages on their wrists. In Times Square, a smiling girl in a tiara and ball gown poses with some of her tuxedo-clad friends and relatives. Each of these scenes was captured by photographer Rebecca Greenfield, 37, as part of her stunning photo project "Coming of Age."
Long fascinated with the subject of female adolescence—perhaps, she believes, because she herself was a teenager when she first picked up a camera—Greenfield began the series in 2008 by shooting quinceañeras,
the elaborate 15th-birthday parties celebrated in Latin-American culture. The experience drove her to explore similar rites of passage for girls in America, from cheerleading practice to sweet 16 parties. "I began photographing homecomings, proms, Bat Mitzvahs," she says, along with lesser-known rituals such as the Apache Sunrise Dance ceremony, an event commemorating a Native American girl's first menstruation, and the "purity ball" attended by Evangelical Christians, wherein a teen pledges to her father to remain sexually abstinent until marriage.
"I've photographed girls from a broad variety of backgrounds, but I find they share more similarities than differences," says Greenfield. "Transitioning from girlhood to womanhood is a beautiful, painful, complicated thing, and that feeling is universal."