AYA, Francesca Allen

03.09.2018 | Art , Culture | BY:

When the British photographer met musician Aya in Tokyo the pair bonded immediately. “Even though our time together was brief, they remain some of my favourite photos I’ve taken” says Francesca Allen of this first encounter in 2016.

Two years later, these first photographs have informed a longer and more intimate project. Francesca Allen’s new book, ‘Aya’ invites viewers into their friendship and documents a month that the pair spent together in Tokyo.

Unable to speak the same language, Allen’s lens offers a poignant testament to connections that are forged beyond verbal exchange. She captures the unspoken chemistry and emotional bond between them, created over an intense month of sharing everything and spending all their time in each other’s company.

Aya is depicted in the studio but also in both domestic and outdoor locations throughout the city. The portraits, whether up close or more distanced, are constantly tender and thoughtful. In these images we can feel Allen behind the camera, creating space for the audience to see into their shared world.

Released this week, ‘Aya’ is an ode to friendship, celebrated in a beautiful new tome. Ahead of the launch we caught up with Francesca Allen to find out more. 

‘Aya’, Francesca Allen

What did you find most interesting about Aya when you met her?

It’s hard to pinpoint why you find someone interesting, but for me it’s all about a connection. Aya is enigmatic and quiet and funny and intriguing. I’m so happy I was able to get to know her more. 

How did you meet?

We were introduced through a mutual friend in 2016 when I first visited Tokyo. We hung out for a few hours taking photos and went to Aya’s label Big Love Records in Harajuku. Even though our time together was brief, they remain some of my favourite photos I’ve taken.

‘Aya’, Francesca Allen

How did documenting one person compare to doing editorials and campaigns?

To have the luxury of spending that much time with one person is so special and something I was very grateful to be able to do. 

What did you learn?

I learnt that this type of project is my dream project. I’m constantly looking for people to photograph and forge connections with, and to be let into someone’s life like this was amazing. 

Did the city of Tokyo inform or inspire the photographs?

Being in a new place is always so exciting, but I wasn’t there to make a book about Tokyo so I veered away from including anything too obvious. I wanted Aya to be the sole focus of the photographs. 

Was there anything that surprised you during the project?

I never tired of taking photos of Aya. We spent a lot of time together and went through so many rolls of film, yet it never felt stale. 

‘Aya’, Francesca Allen

There’s a mixture of studio portraits and natural environments in the book. How did the different settings inform your approach to image making in the context of such an intimate relationship with your subject?

I don’t feel like there is so much difference with shooting in a studio to being on location. The focus of my photos is so rarely about the location or the environment, and when you reach a certain level of intimacy with someone it doesn’t make too much difference where you are. 

‘Aya’, Francesca Allen

What about the book are you most excited about?

I received my first copy of the book the other day, and it felt amazing to hold it in my hands. We are all so used to seeing our photos on screens and social media, so to have the opportunity to make something tangible feels incredibly special. 

‘Aya’, Francesca Allen

‘Aya’ by Francesca Allen is out on Libraryman with a limited first edition of 500 copies, 4th September 2018. 

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