Books: Capturing Three Decades Of Female Friendship

By David Schonauer   Thursday April 15, 2021

Female friendship in powerful.

“When photographer Karen Marshall was in her 20s, she couldn't shake the feeling that friendships between women were, she says, ‘special’ and ‘different,’” notes NPR. “She had grown up in a liberal household in the 1970s, and was surrounded by discussions of women's liberation and consciousness raising. She was finding a lot of meaning in her own female friendships. So she wanted to get to the root of it.”

"I remember going to bookstores and trying to think about films I had seen about women coming of age and that kind of thing," Marshall says. "And I couldn't find hardly anything. Like I could find teenage stories, but I couldn't find anything about what women share with each other. So it was pretty specific, just thinking about my chronology, girls in history and even Greek myth, and all that stuff.”

In 1985, Marshall met 16-year-old Molly Brover, a high school junior in New York City, and, drawn to the “bright, exuberant 16-year-old,” she asked if she could document her and her friend’s daily lives.

“Enthusiastic to show me her Upper West Side girl world, Molly agreed,” Marshall told Dazed recently. “I was soon privy to her ever-rotating group of girlfriends, spending time with the teenagers on a regular basis and documenting the everyday rituals of their friendship.”

Marshall planned to document the emotional bonds we create at this formative time, but, notes Dazed, the project took on a new and poignant significance when Molly Brover was killed in a car accident ten months after Marshall met her.

Marshall vowed to keep on with the project and spent the next 30 years documenting the lives of the group of young women. Now the images have been collected in the book “Between Girls” (Kehrer Verlag). Due for release in October this year, special project is being crowdfunded on Kickstarter.

“I knew that Molly would remain 17, while the rest of them would become women, and that break in continuity among the girls inspired me to continue to document them in various ways over the years to come,” Marshall tells Dazed.

The photographs record a story of the ways lives unfold, as friendships wax and wane, “sometimes influenced by the reunions Marshall orchestrated in order to photograph and interview them,” notes NPR. “Two of the women had a falling out, and one didn't invite the other to her wedding. Reuniting during a session with Marshall only created more tension between them. Later, another friend in the group shared that one of estranged friends was pregnant — a discovery that renewed their bond. And even later still, the newly reunited friends were pregnant at the same time and got to share the experience of motherhood together.”

The birth of her daughter in 1992 is another event in Marshall's life that brought extra meaning to the project, notes NPR.  "There was a day, I'll never forget, when she was probably 14, when two girls came over to our house," Marshall says. "And I looked over, and I was like, this is like a repeat pattern. It's a different generation of girls, and they're doing exactly the same thing.”

"I do really believe these universal ideas about bonding," Marshall tells NPR, "that even though you could be below the poverty line, or uber rich, or you could be in a very different culture, that a lot of these same things happen — maybe at slightly different times in people's lives, but they happen."


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