Kaelyn De La Cruz

In my work, I document my own lived experiences as a Dominican-American woman growing up in New York City. In my project, I photograph food, religion, sports, and beauty to celebrate people of Hispanic descent and the staples of  Hispanic/Dominican experiences. I want those of Hispanic/Dominican descent to be able to see themselves and their experiences when they see my work, and for that to create a sense of unity.

One of the most widely known traditional breakfasts in the Dominican community is mashed plantains with eggs and salami, or as we like to call it sometimes, Los Tres Golpes (the three hits), which brings the family together for eating and preparation.

Christianity is the most widely practiced religion in the Dominican Republic, and my family has practiced it for as long as I can remember. From falling asleep during church, to hugging the two people next to me at the end of mass, to reading La Biblia with my cousins before going to sleep, to praying with my Abuela and wondering if there really was a God out there watching and protecting me, I wonder what part I play in Christanity.

I also wanted to celebrate the most popular sport in the Dominican Republic, baseball. Baseball was introduced to the Dominican Republic by Cubans as far back as the 1870s, where the appeal for baseball grew during Tiempo Muerto in the growing cycle of plantation fields. Today, through this sport and team, baseball players formed a small family where in order to win, they all have a part to play.

Finally, Dominican beauty standards have impacted me ever since I was young. This is seen in my photographs of my best friend getting her hair done—from leaving her house to the finished product. All these aspects of life play a piece in the puzzle that makes up the experiences I document and celebrate in my work.


Kaelyn De La Cruz, born and raised in the South Bronx, began creating art at a young age. She went to an arts-driven elementary charter school in Hunts Point. Kaelyn became interested in photography in her junior year of high school. At school, she works on her toes as her campus’ athletics photographer, and outside of school, she works diligently on capturing photos not only as a hobby but also for assignments as a student in the International Center of Photography’s Teen Academy Imagemakers program. Her family and experiences being a Dominican-American in New York's poorest district has had the biggest effect on her work. For inspiration, Kaelyn reflects on her own lived experiences, commonly using a documentary style to photograph themes of identity, religion, beauty, and family.