Francesca Allen's GIRLS! GIRLS! GIRLS! series is a romantic hymn to coming of age. Diaristic, intimate, and fresh, her work explores the fragility of adolescence, the hopefulness of female friendship, the intimacy of love. Shot over five years and compiled as her final project at university, it got a place on the Photographers' Gallery's survey of the best young photographers to graduate this year.
After a nomadic childhood, Francesca picked up a camera because "when a camera is in the room, nothing feels inappropriate", and returning to photograph many of the same subjects over the time, GIRLS! GIRLS! GIRLS! is a document of growing up in 21st century Britain.
Tell me a bit about yourself and where you grew up?
I'm a 22-year-old London based editorial and portrait photographer. I didn't really grow up in one place, my parents moved around a lot so there's no specific place I would refer to as home, as romanticised as that may sound. I spent a few years in-between Los Angeles and Oslo as a child, and I have a particular fascination with California.
What is it about taking pictures that interests you?
When a camera is in the room, nothing feels inappropriate. It almost acts as a blanket and my nerves somewhat dissipate as soon as I am holding one. You can really ask things of people, and get to know them in a very different way. When you're looking through the viewfinder, what you're seeing doesn't feel very real so the boundaries about what is and isn't appropriate are skewed. I think that's what interests me the most, how a camera affects social normalities between two people.
What is it you're trying to do with your pictures?
I think my work should be taken at face value, no connotations or deeper meanings, I'm just trying to have fun! My photos are light-hearted and playful and I want that to resonate with the audience. I get really frustrated when people try to decipher and add a conceptual side to my work--I never created it with that intent.
What sets you apart from other photographers of your generation?
I see myself as being very much a part of a larger movement of women who have been given the freedom of expression and encouraged exhibitionism through the internet. The internet has given everyone a voice and the ability to engineer their own success and representation.
What do you look for in a subject?
Someone who I can spend an enjoyable day with, who contributes to the images as much as I do, collaborating and opening themselves to me. I like to have continuous subjects, people who I will always want to photograph. I have images of two girls Ophelia and Theo that span over almost three years now, and I find it pretty interesting to look back on the first photos we took together. I like my photos to be a very literal documentation of adolescence.
What's the story behind GIRLS! GIRLS! GIRLS!?
The series came about around this time last year when I was trying to make sense of my work and what it was that I actually enjoyed creating. I studied a book of the same title, edited by Catherine Grant and Lori Waxman. The book is a study of the girl in contemporary art, with essays including Dial 'P' for Panties by Lucy Soutter. I came to make sense of my work through reading the book and took inspiration from their title.
The series spans over five years of photographs and it's an ongoing and evolving project. It is wholly personal work with a combination of diaristic images and more composed portraits. The series is as much about my own adolescence as that of my subjects. It is becoming increasingly harder to continue with the series as I am now somewhat detached from the concept of adolescence, having made it out the other side.
Your work is quite girly - lots of pinks, nudity, lots of intimate bedroom shots - what are you trying to say about girlhood in 2015?
I wouldn't class nudity as being representative of girlishness, I feel that is a common misconception, and along with the term 'feminist', 'girly' is somewhat an umbrella term used to describe all work made by women. No men are ever accused of their work being 'manly'.
What are you working on at the moment?
I've just finished working on my piece for FreshFaced+WildEyed exhibition at The Photographer's Gallery. I'm displaying an installation of over 40 images, both new and old work. After this, I kind of want to wrap my GIRLS! GIRLS! GIRLS! project and start on something new and different. I want to turn it into a book but I'm waiting for the right time; probably when I haven't looked at the work in a while and I can learn to love it again.
What are your hopes for the future?
I would like a cute dog and a nice house where every room is painted a different colour, and an American Visa so said house and dog can be located in LA.
FreshFaced + WildEyed is open from today at The Photographers' Gallery until the 5th of July 2015.
Text Tish Weinstock
Photographs Francesca Allen