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Francesca Allen, Aya

Francesca Allen is one of the photographers we try and work with on every issue of Riposte. Her eye and sensibility capture something really honest, raw and beautiful in everyone she shoots. You get the sense that Francesca makes it fun on set, she’s unpretentious and open, as a result she’s able to create intimate and striking images of young women who are often in the midst of exploring their own bodies and identities.

On a recent trip to Japan Francesca met musician Aya, a meeting that has proven to be pivotal in her career and has led to the creation of her first solo book, Aya which launches tonight at Tenderbooks. Over the course of a month Francesca and Aya lived in each other’s worlds, running around Tokyo eating noodles, going to gigs, meeting each other’s friends and bonding without being able to speak the same language. It’s a beautiful and rich collection of photographs that evoke the intense feelings of when you meet someone who you click with instantly and become obsessed with. It’s a step on in Francesca’s style of photography and an exciting one; we can’t wait to see where it leads her next.  

We spoke to Francesca ahead of launch to find out more about the project.

How did you meet Aya?

I was looking for girls to photograph while I was visiting Japan in the summer of 2016, and a friend pointed me in Aya’s direction. I spent a few hours taking photos with Aya when I first met her and they were some of my favourites I have taken. It felt really natural to come back and continue photographing her more extensively. 

How long did you end up spending with her? 

We spent just under a month together. I was there during the cherry blossom season, but it was quite a cold spring so they only bloomed in the last few days. 

What were some of the best experiences you had together?

Some of my favourite times with Aya were just sitting eating spaghetti in a restaurant or dancing at a club. There are so many in-between moments that aren’t photographed and ultimately aren’t they always the most special?

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How did you build up the bond and trust between you without having language as the default way of communicating?

I don’t think you need a common language to get to know someone. You might not know everything about them, but you can still connect on a different level. 

How have you found the process of making your first book?

Collaborating with someone on a project that is so close to your heart is really scary but working with Tony has been wonderful. I’ve learnt a lot of new things about printing and had to make a lot of decisions. I’m really pleased with the book; I was understandably nervous but I held a copy for the first time the other day and it’s exactly how I wanted it. 

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Your work seems to be developing from your earlier images. Is this a conscious decision or are you just drawn to different aesthetics?

That’s really nice to hear. It’s not a conscious decision; I think that your work naturally matures at the same pace as you. I used to photograph my friends running around naked in fields but we don’t do that anymore, so it’s become more about fabricating situations. 

You were struggling with your work about a year ago, trying to find your passion for it again. What was it that threw you off and how have you found your stride again? Has it been this project and working on this book?

This project actually threw me off. I was on such a high the whole time I was making this, it honestly didn’t feel like reality. And then when I came back to London, it obviously wasn’t my reality anymore. I think it’s okay to fall out of love with something for a little bit, as long as you revisit it and test the waters. I’ve worked solidly on this project for the last year and also learnt to hand print. I’ve had a bit of down time to think about what I really want to make with my work, and this book is a nice reminder of why I’m doing this. 

Aya by Francesca Allen is out on Libraryman with a limited first edition of 500 copies, order copies here.

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