As an intrinsic member of the cool-beyond-their-years Rookie Mag crew, we’ve always known photographer Petra Collins and her work to be the poster child of youth culture. Now she’s taken that title to a whole new level with her new documentary series Making Space, made in tandem with her sister, dancer Anna Collins, about what it’s like to be a teenage girl in today’s world.
The two used dance as the undercurrent that connects each of the documentary subjects. “Petra and I had been wanting to do something together that involved both of our passions,” Anna says. “We’d been brainstorming and fantasizing about being able to travel to smaller towns and talk to younger girls to get their perspective on everyday things that girls go through, like body image and identity.”
After some serious brainstorming (and some talent scouting via Instagram), the two sisters put their plan into action by partnering with Anchor Light Productions and BB Dakota. Then they hit the road to film all of the talented girls in their natural habitats—at school, at home, and inside the dance studio, of course. “Dance is a way for girls to express themselves,” says Petra. “It’s a way to use their body as a tool that they control instead of an object of someone’s eye. Dance can give you a lot of power and I wanted to explore that.”
Film, as it turns out, is another thing Petra’s looking to explore more. “In my eyes, it’s a very important medium for storytelling and a great channel to create change,” she says. “With film you have to consider time, space, sound, and movement whereas with photography, you just have one frame to tell your story.” Petra tells her story—or rather the story of ten teenage dancers from all over America—in the same dreamy pastel hues that her photography is so well known for as her subjects speak on the trials and tribulations that come with being both a girl and a dancer. The epic trip started in New Orleans and ended in Death Valley, where they shot some of Anna’s favorite footage. “On one of the last days of filming, we woke up before sunrise to film me dancing on the salty sand in Badwater,” recalls Anna. “Just being able to move outside in a space that was so enormous and beautiful was the most surreal thing I think I had ever done. While I was dancing, I completely forgot that I was being filmed and totally lost myself.”
“I just hope that [Making Space] gives girls another way to view themselves in a positive light,” Petra says. “I want them to know that they’re strong and can do anything; that gender is just a role and that they don’t need to play it the way society tells them to.”
We’ll dance to that.
Check out this Popular exclusive premiere of Petra and Anna’s music video set to the tune of Blood Orange’s “Time Will Tell,” with footage from Making Space. Then, go watch all three installments of the doc.