18x18 in 2020

It is ok to not have it all figured out.


  • Auckland
  • Community
June 30, 2020 Coco Janssen

Early November last year, we gathered together 18 young women from all over Auckland and asked them to share their stories. 18x18 was an outpouring of honest, painful, and beautiful stories and experiences from my generation. In the unique position of photographer and participant, I got to really see these young women and how they are thinking about life. What followed was the hugely successful 18x18 exhibition and stories carried by the media everywhere.

Hearing these voices unfiltered got great feedback and it feels as if there has been a shift in the way that the world considers young women. I wanted to see if the others who took part felt the same and how the crazy world of 2020 has affected them.  


These new conversations in a post-COVID world held a mix of optimism, hope, and frustration. Tasnim and Allyssa were happy to be able to keep studying through this time and Allyssa claimed it to be her ‘saviour through all of it’. Katie had an essential worker status at her job in the local liquor store, which I am sure some of us were very grateful for! Frances and Sophie carried out their hopes for more independence and growth throughout the crazy time of a pandemic. Sophie is working two part-time jobs and kept studying and Frances is moving out of home and said that she “had dealt with more loneliness and stress than expected’. Aashna took this time to learn more about herself and the world today. With the anxiety of the pandemic, she changed her university degree and learned more about detoxing from social media, and the importance and value of smaller things in life. 

The original purpose of 18x18 was to highlight and encourage honest conversations about the realities of this complex age and the challenges faced.

It gave the 18 young women a platform and demonstrated how Generation Z is thinking. Tasnim wants future generations to be kinder to themselves, reinforcing that ‘it’s ok to take a break, and it's ok to ask for help.’As 18x18 highlights, this age is filled with big life transitions that can be challenging. Katie wants others to realise that they aren’t alone in these tough times. ‘The transition period from being in high school to starting your adult life is a struggle that everyone faces.’

There is a lot of stigma around being young and what that means for the importance of your voice.

However, Allyssa feels that 18x18 gave her a chance to feel that her voice was powerful and ‘validated by my community and I felt really heard and understood’. She wants to make sure that this experience becomes more normal for coming generations, ‘when you speak, people listen.’ Frances and Aashna both spoke to the inspiration they got from reading these stories - that they weren’t alone in this confusing time. It made me smile when Aashna told me ‘Most importantly, none of us have it all figured out, even if on the outside it looks like we do.’ 

Youth today are thinking beyond themselves and about the big issues in our country and world. At times we are scared and frustrated, but ready to fight for a better world. Catching up with the other 17 girls reminded me that I am not alone in the crazy world and as young women, we have powerful voices and ideas and will use them.

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Read the stories from the 18 young women and see more photos from the project