Gabriel Dinsmoor: Quinceañera

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<h3><strong>The Image</strong></h3>
</strong>Gabriel Dinsmoor

</strong>Holy Name Middle School, North Camden, NJ

<strong>Time </strong>/<strong> Date:
<h3><strong>The Technical</strong></h3>
Camera Body: Fuji x100s
Lens: Fujinon 23mm f/2
<strong>Camera Settings:</strong>

Shutter Speed: 1/25s
Aperture: f/4
ISO: 6400
Focal Length: 23mm

<h3><strong>The Story</strong></h3>
<strong>Background: </strong>

I’ve been shooting a documentary over the last year about how little league baseball is creating change in the community of North Camden, the most dangerous neighborhood of the city with the highest homicide rate in the country.

As I got to know the neighborhood, the work took me further from the diamond. One Sunday, I found myself at a sweet sixteen party to celebrate a quinceañera, a Latina’s transition into young womanhood. These were commonly humble parties thrown in the family’s backyard. Lately, they’d become more glamorous.

<strong>The Scene: </strong>

The parents had splurged to make a fairytale party for their daughter. Henni had been invited by the birthday girl, a friend of his from school, and I was his plus one. He was part of the birthday girl’s “court,” the seven pairs of guests who dress up in tuxedos and dresses.

It felt like a dream. Flashes from camera phones in the crowd fired all around me as the dance performance started. I had waited the whole night for this moment. The birthday girl had traded in her bright orange ball gown for a black corset, black shorts, and stockings with crosses on them. She was only 16, but she looked much older. Honey-colored ringlets of hair fell neatly to her shoulders above a diamond necklace. In front of a wooden sculpture of Jesus on the cross, she was hoisted up by boys in black shirts, two on either side supporting her arms. Her eyes closed as the music started and the boys in black carried her to the middle of the room and set her down. Her entourage formed a circle around her as she broke into step as the music crescendoed.

<strong>Gear: </strong>

This image was shot with the Fuji x100s.

<strong>Making the Shot:</strong>

Shrieks from girls in the audience rang out like school girls at a Justin Bieber show. The boys knelt around her, their heads bowed, and for a second she stood staring straight at me while everyone held their breath. A silence fell over the room while everyone admired her beauty. I snapped three frames in quick succession as she gazed back at me, hands resting on her hips. Through eyelashes clotted with mascara, her almond brown eyes seemed to say, “I am a woman.”

<strong>Editing &amp; Processing:</strong>

A little dodging was necessary on the crowd in the background to bring back some detail and a little burning on some of the highlights so the eye immediately goes to the birthday girl.

<strong>Looking Back:</strong>

This photo would not have been possible if I hadn’t been spending long days, weeks, and months getting to know the community. Having their trust and acceptance allowed me to get access to such a poignant moment in this young woman’s life. I feel very thankful to have been invited.


Do not try and “make” a photograph. It often happens intuitively, with very little thought. Spend more time talking to people in the community and getting to know people. Create strong, honest connections with the people you are photographing. Humble yourself.


Henri Cartier-Bresson and Alex Webb, among with many others have always been big inspirations. I also draw inspiration from music, film, and literature.

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<h3><strong>About the Photographer</strong></h3>

Gabe Dinsmoor is a multimedia journalist and documentary filmmaker living in Baltimore, Maryland. He recently received his Masters in New Media Photojournalism at the Corcoran College of Art + Design.

Dinsmoor has been published by The Guardian, NPR,, and National Geographic Books.

Currently, Dinsmoor is working on a documentary about how Little League baseball is helping the struggling neighborhood of North Camden, the most dangerous neighborhood in one of the most dangerous cities in America. The league plays an important role in a much needed revitalization of the neighborhood and also helps heal youth suffering from trauma caused by chronic community violence. For more of his work check out <a href=””></a>


<strong>Website:</strong> <a href=””></a>

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