Photographer Jennifer Hardeen was born in the New York City borough of Queens, to parents Dennis and Sue Hardeen.
As one of two children in her family, she has a younger brother who is in his late 20’s. As siblings, they are very close with each other. Both of her parents were born in the South American country of Guyana, and they immigrated to the United States in their late teens. Hardeen’s dad, who is of Indian-Caribbean descent, was a fire safety director and manager for a hotel, while her mom was a home health care aid for 10 years. Her mom passed away two years ago due to COVID-19.
Terri Ann Peters was born and raised in Guyana. Her dad is of African-American descent, while her mom is of Indian descent, and they are also Guyanese. She has a younger brother, whom she is very close with. She came to the United States when she was ready to start high school.
Crystal Millington was born to parents Cyril (deceased) and Noreen Millington. Both were born in Guyana. She has an older sister, Monique. She grew up in Queens as well.
Growing up, some of Hardeen’s favorite memories involved going to the film stores and waiting for her photos to be developed. Her mother loved photography and prior to his fire safety job, her dad was a professional videographer. Photography was always something Hardeen just did for fun. She loved photographing landscapes, the city, and food.
“As a child, my mom would buy me a disposable camera, and she wanted me to take it everywhere. She always told me to photograph anything. So having a camera on me was like someone carrying their wallet,” Hardeen said.
Additionally, Peters said that growing up in Guyana was blissful. “I had great memories with friends and family and definitely culture, though I do go back and visit. I still miss it every day, it’s home for me. It’s a huge part of my identity and what I stand for,” she said.
Peters got into acting in 2009. She was always into entertainment and entertaining friends and family growing up. She did talent shows and even joined the theater program in high school. She added that her upbringing created the space for her to share who she is with an audience through my performances and vulnerability as an actor.
Millington has always been interested in acting, but she didn’t fully commit to it until last year.
“I met Jen back in high school sophomore or Junior year. We all went to the same high school but had different interests. But we were somehow connected and just weren’t aware of it at that time,” said Peters.
Peters added that one of the first things that all three women bonded over was having Guyanese roots. Millington added that they connected over wanting to see the same stories told.
Hardeen has been working at the office job that she started in her late 20’s, where she said she has met wonderful people. It wasn’t an easy start, and it took lots of hard work to get to where she is now.
She said that she feels that she’s grown since she got her first photos published. She said that working with Millington and Peters has helped contribute to her growth as a female photographer.
Peters shared what the experience has been like working with Hardeen and Millington, and what it means to her.
“In September of 2020 I met up with Jen to do a photoshoot and we caught up on a lot, and spoke about integrating our creativity to produce content that will help myself, her and Crystal grow as actors,” she said.
Millington said that although she hasn’t met Peters in person, she felt like her calls with Hardeen and Peters helped her understand the acting industry, making her feel like she belonged.
“The experience since then has really helped me find my courage. Whenever I have a question, I can easily reach out to both of them. It’s still scary because the industry doesn’t often see Caribbean women, but it feels possible to write our own stories,” she added.
Peters agreed saying, “The experience through all this has been an honor and privilege. I’m grateful to have these ladies as a part of my community and circle. They are for sure a part of my purpose.”
Hardeen added that she is always learning and growing as a photographer. I’ve learned that it’s okay to not like every aspect of your passion, that it just adds to who you are as an individual,” she said.
For young females who want to get involved in photography, Hardeen’s advice is to go for it, and silence the negative voices.
“As a woman, we are rare in the photography industry and you will have people that try to break your spirit, don’t let them. Keep researching, learn different techniques, learn the history, and practice. Keep going, you’ll get there,” she said.