Samantha Cabrera Friend

(American, b. 1994; resides in Chicago, IL)

Samantha Cabrera Friend is a Chicago-based artist and writer who explores, in her own words, "relationships of feminine spectacle, performance, community, and identity production as they relate to global experiences of womanhood, celebration, and survival." In this series, titled Maiden Voyage, the artist specifically looks at the ritual of quinceañeras as a major rite of passage tradition marking the fifteenth birthday of girls. The celebration has cultural roots in Mexico and is now observed across Latin America, the United States, the Caribbean, and parts of Europe. Cabrera Friend's images were made while onboard a specialty cruise ship where hundreds gathered onboard to celebrate 40 separate quinceañeras. Depending on preferences and beliefs, practices today vary widely, as exemplified in her images of dresses ranging from modernized, extravagant, and colorful to traditional, modest, and white. The dress is a very significant part of the ceremony, and aesthetic choices of dress reflect not only the custom of quinceañeras marking the time when girls were historically considered ready for marriage, but also how the ceremony has evolved from its 14th century Mesoamerican origins, to Roman Catholicism influences after Spanish colonization during the 16th century, to the present-day with girls often shedding some of the stricter standards to make room for joyful modes of cultural and self-expression. The artist states: “In modern day, quinceañera practice actually subverts its own patriarchal roots as an indigenous rite of passage beginning in 1400s Mexico and directly serves as a form of cultural activism through the inherent tools exchanged within quinceañera communities—embracing one’s mother language, traditions, and stories—to indirectly fight oppression.”

Samantha Cabrera Friend received her BFA from the School of Visual Arts. Clients include The New Yorker, Vice, W Magazine, First Look Media (Topic), and National Geographic. She has collaborated with museums, educational institutions and publications in Argentina, the United States, and Mexico.

To see more images and read the artist’s journal about the cruise experience, please visit: