By Hadas Kuznits

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — A new photo exhibit being held at the Philadelphia Museum of Art’s Pearman building across the street examines the American Prom experience.

The exhibit opens July first and runs through October 28th.

Exhibit curator Peter Barberie says its quite fitting that the Prom photography exhibit will have just opened in time for the 4th of July:

(Kuznits:) “Prom really is a very American experience.”

“Yes, I mean different cultures have different coming of age rituals,” Barberie says. “In many Spanish-speaking countries a young lady’s 15th birthday is very important. We have sweet 16 here, but the prom is more important, the idea that you’re going on a date and you’re getting dressed up; you’re on your own, you’re an adult.”

The portraits were shot by American photojournalist Mary Ellen Mark who attended over a dozen proms between 2006 and 2009.

“I think this is a fun, delightful exhibition,” adds Barberie. “It’s a real pleasure. There are a lot of poignant moments and you realize that a lot of these people are going to have wildly different lives from each other and that’s both painful and also very exciting.”

The photographs are accompanied by a video exhibit by Mark’s husband, filmmaker Martin Bell who interviewed the high school subjects.