Who Do They Think They Are?

And who are they, really?

Photo: Ruvan Wijesooriya
Photo: Ruvan Wijesooriya

Every day, each of us puts a version of how we want to be seen out into the world — and, of course, we’re always misunderstood. Each week, for our “Judgments” photo project, we’re asking strangers on the streets of New York City to size each other up.

Alya and Alymamah (above)

“They probably don’t know each other. You don’t have to know somebody to take a picture with them. For fun, they probably watch YouTube tutorials. The girl on the left, she looks like she could be a model. She poses really good.” —Destiny, 21

“They look like nice girls. They look like they could be students. On Saturdays, they go to the park, sit down, relax, have a coffee, meet some friends. Like anyone else.” —Mirabelle, 45

“For work, they could do anything. The girl on the right, her name is Cynthia. She’s a grad student, studies psychology, and works at Starbucks.” —William, 16

“I think that she’s making about $60,000 a year. Something academic/intellectually related. I’m actually gonna say that she doesn’t even work. By the way she walks, I can tell that she actually might be in college. Probably NYU. For fun, she does family stuff. I don’t think she smokes weed.” —Gabe, 27

Alymamah (left): Parsons MFA student in fine arts, 24.

Alya (right): Parsons MFA student in design and technology, 25.

Alymamah: “[Alya] was the only person that wore hijab when I went to my orientation at Parsons, so that made me happy. We instantly connected. It’s so refreshing to have someone that you not only relate to but someone that you can depend on. I’m grateful for her.”

Alya: “[Alymamah is] my family in New York. We met here, and we have so much in common. Our weekly coffee session is an essential thing.”

Alymamah (left): “I’m originally from Kuwait, and I’ve been in New York for the past seven years. I’m an artist. I’m a painter and I write. I love writing and reading, and going to galleries and openings, supporting my friends, so my profession is kind of my leisure. My style is organic. I simply like to wear what I feel. My work talks about the Muslim experience, beyond just the Middle East. The weed thing is so funny. I don’t smoke, I don’t drink. Beyond religion, it’s just not my thing. I wear hijab, so people assume things about me. It’s great to hear someone say that I’m in academia or making a lot of money. I wish to get there. So it’s nice to have an image that embodies where you want to be in five or ten years.”

Alya (right): “I’m a Sagittarius. I’m a designer who makes art. I like trying new things. That’s what got me to New York — I’m originally from Saudi Arabia. I have a puppy. Her name is Nahar, and she’s my roommate. She’s my favorite thing on Earth, probably. She’s my kid. She’s a malti-pom. Tiny. I have a big family, and my family is everything. No romantic life — I’m so focused on school and work. I just want to make art.”

Jessica Boddy, Emma Grillo, and Sarah Nechamkin contributed reporting. On set production by Jean Jarvis.

Who Do They Think They Are?