Caria Taylor, a member of Cass Tech High School’s Class of 2021, used the isolation of COVID as an opportunity to develop her hobbies: reading, writing, and photography.
When George Floyd was murdered, and racial justice protests swept across the country, she was out in the streets with her camera. Caria leaned on organizations such as Capturing Belief, a Detroit-based photography program, and the Detroit Youth Choir — groups that helped to develop her creative vision and voice long before the pandemic began.
After watching the Class of 2020 miss out on their proms and traditional graduation ceremonies, among other rites of passage, Caria and her class had the opportunity to attend those milestone events together. It was the first time she had seen many of her classmates since March 2020, and they managed to pick up just where they left off.
In these pictures and an original poem, titled “Fantasy Turns Into Reality,” Caria gives a first-hand account of her journey in three parts: watching her creative voice blossom at the height of the pandemic, experiencing the joy of prom and graduation, and returning to some level of normalcy as she and her friends spend time together before they venture into adulthood.
Fantasy Turns Into Reality
Looking back at this year leaves a funny feeling.
I feel like I’ve grown so much in a year of quietness.
I’ve learned some lessons,
I became a student to change,
Without even sitting in a classroom
Living in a virtual world that left me wondering:
“Is this really all that is left?”
Feelings of hopelessness pointed me towards a higher power:
I became more curious,
The world left my mind yearning,
As I looked for inspiration around me:
I found it in the church,
In the books I was reading,
In the music I was singing,
In the gym when I could make it,
In my plants that taught me patience,
In my camera that gave me a voice,
In myself when I had no choice.
- “After another year of online learning, we finally made it to our prom. I decided to document the night, which was the first time in months we got to see each other in person.” Caria Taylor for Chalkbeat
- “When I took this picture of my prom date, I wanted to document the behind-the-scenes moments that make up the experience of prom: the send-off, taking pictures as our family looked on before we went to celebrate.” Caria Taylor for Chalkbeat
- “Everything about this background and this setting felt perfect. I wanted to make this moment for my friends.” Caria Taylor for Chalkbeat
- “I made this selfie of my friend and me on my point-and-shoot, just hoping that the moment would come out like this. Our friend photo-bombed us, which shows how much fun we had that night.” Caria Taylor for Chalkbeat
- “This moment reminded me about things I saw in magazines and pop culture; being dressed up in a random place like a gas station made me feel like we were characters in a movie.” Caria Taylor for Chalkbeat
- “When Malik was crowned Prom King, I was so thrilled because I love him so much. High school wasn’t always like how it’s portrayed in movies, but this moment made it feel like it was.” Caria Taylor for Chalkbeat
- “Relationships in high school feel permanent in that moment, but I realize that we are in some kind of bubble in how we see them. I wonder if it’ll be that way in the ‘real world’ away from school.” Caria Taylor for Chalkbeat
- “This is the moment just after the Prom King and Queen were announced. Here we see not only the two of them, but our principal, the D.J., and the whole class together behind them on the screen.” Caria Taylor for Chalkbeat
- “This was after prom, right before the ‘Part Two’ of the event. We decided to stop at the gas station before going to our hotel room to continue the celebration.” Caria Taylor for Chalkbeat
- “Finally, I made it to the end. It was the end of a four-year journey and a goodbye to the crowded halls. Although I couldn’t spend my last days in the building that gave me so much anxiety as an incoming freshman, I still experienced graduation and wanted to commemorate it in the only way I know how.” Caria Taylor for Chalkbeat
- “I feel like almost all of us had a moment like this; taking the moment in and processing everything that is about to change in our lives.” Caria Taylor for Chalkbeat
- “I made this photograph on my way to get my diploma. My teacher and guidance counselor are smiling back at me. You can see here that their care is what made this moment for us.” Caria Taylor for Chalkbeat
- “These two struck me because they truly felt like they were celebrating their graduation: one with a cigar and the other with his dog.” Caria Taylor for Chalkbeat
- “This was my point of view for the entire graduation. It felt amazing being able to see everyone show their creativity with their caps. They went all out.” Caria Taylor for Chalkbeat
- “Everyone in the crowd, each doing different things or looking in different directions, looks like a cohesive group in our graduation gowns.” Caria Taylor for Chalkbeat
- “After the ceremony, everyone had to go back to the school for pictures and their diplomas. These moments speak to our experience being students at Cass Tech High School. The place had a way of making us feel small at first, but we grew into it by the end of our time there.” Caria Taylor for Chalkbeat
- “There are different stories within this one picture. You can look at this scene and see the time that we’re living in, but also that we have this moment where it felt like time stopped for our graduation.” Caria Taylor for Chalkbeat
- “The entire graduation ceremony was chaotic, with over 500 students needing to be coordinated.This moment of calm before the ceremony gave me a chance to take everything in as we prepared to take the stage.” Caria Taylor for Chalkbeat
Could this be the end?
The thought of seeing friends face-to-face became a possibility,
And we picked up right where we left off: together.
It is quite confusing after a pandemic year,
But I nonetheless I embraced it,
And I’d be lying if I said I didn’t miss it.
So in these moments, everything becomes normal.
Everything becomes what it was supposed to be:
A few days of fantasy
A return to normalcy.
Caria Taylor is a recent graduate of Cass Tech High School in Detroit. Caria has been experimenting with photography for the past few years and participates in the Detroit-based visual storytelling program Capturing Belief. She will continue to make pictures as a hobby while attending Wayne State University in the fall. Caria is currently interning with Ford and hopes to pursue a career in STEM after college.