Portraits of People Holding Their School Pictures from Awkward Years


Do you always laugh and squirm when you look back at official school pictures from “awkward years”? You’re not alone — take a peek at the Awkward Years Project and you’ll see what we mean. The project was started by a Utah-based graphic designer and photography enthusiast named Merilee, who’s collecting then-and-now portraits to show people who have blossomed since their awkward teen days.

Merilee defines the “awkward years” as “the years between being a cute kid to the awesome person you are today” — the years of braces, zits, big glasses, and being “victims of terrible fashion.”

The project started when Merilee had a conversation with a friend who didn’t believe Merilee had any awkward years. To show that she was “queen of the nerds” from grades 3 through 7, Merilee sent her friend a photograph. She writes,

I made her promise not to show anyone. I realize that picture was taken 20+ years ago, but the past still affects me. You know that mentality of overweight people who have lost so much weight but they still see themselves as fat? That’s how I feel. I may look normal now, but I still see myself as an awkward nerd. I wanted to take a picture of myself then & now, as if I had to hold my 5th grade self’s hand before giving it to my friend.

That photograph sparked an idea: Why not capture both periods of life in a before-and-after photograph? Thus, the project was born. Merilee started it off by posing for a portrait with her awkward class photo:


In addition to sharing some images of family and friends, she is also opening up the site to submissions. Here are some of the portraits that have appeared so far:





You can follow along with the project over on its Tumblr website.

Awkward Years Project (via Laughing Squid)

Image credits: Photographs by the Awkward Years Project and used with permission

  • Tommy Sar

    Still in my awkward phase and I’m 30….

  • ken

    Pic number 4 is funny. Good work growing up.

  • Christian DeBaun

    Interesting project – well done!

  • asdfasdf

    Wow…mind blowing creativity

  • Tommy Sar

    I want to know who got beaten with the Awkward Stick and rated you down.

  • kaye

    Should show this to our kids in those awkward stages to show them that there is life after grade school!

  • AdminHarald

    Will be interesting to see if any people in their 50s, 60s, 70s contribute. Currently only seeing late-20s-30s.

  • Peter

    it’s called 7 up.

  • AdminHarald

    U mean 7 or up in Hotness? And self-selecting? What’s your #?

  • jkantor267

    How come no pictures of attractive teens who turned into ugly adults?

  • mko

    errrm what was the question again?

  • Sqweezy

    I think he’s referring to the movie series “7 Up”. Quite an interesting project that spans decades.

  • Trappo

    The last chick is HOT

  • AdminHarald

    Oh, that Brit “longitudinal study documentary.” I think they’re up to age 56 now. Let’s see some 56ers!

  • IAR

    That would be me, I used to have hair…. :( I need some ice cream now!!

  • RandomDesign

    There’s a subreddit for this:

  • Taylor Arrazola

    So glad we grow up… those pics look okay, mine— the 80’s all hair.

  • Lynne Spreen

    “Grandma, I’m HUGE!” My 3-year-old granddaughter’s proud exclamation yesterday. She doesn’t know, does she? Still so innocent, she will soon learn that huge is considered a bad thing. She will slouch, and bemoan her curves. But that’s a long way away. For today, she only knows that she’s happy to be so big (3 1/2 feet tall and 38 pounds).