Review by Gerhard Clausing •
Lucky are those who have a group of friends from their childhood that they can still count on way into their later years as adults. And they are even more fortunate if they have a talented photographer whose astute observations keep track of things over all that time. Naturally, such a group project would lend itself to publication, so we can all share in these events that constitute an interesting group history.
This is definitely the case with Karen Marshall’s Between Girls. She has created a record for these girls from New York City as they matured into adulthood that gives us many refreshing personal glimpses into their shared experiences and the nature of a special group cohesion along their journey. The images give us very intimate views of the interactions within the group, as well as impressive individual portraits. We never feel like outsiders, but rather have the feeling that we are genuinely sharing in the lives of these women and their authentic moments, as we are taken from their school days through adulthood and parenting. All the documentary images by Marshall are in black and white, often spread across a double page, and thus feature a directness that invites viewer involvement and empathy. We do not get a sense that the participants are posing or performing for the camera.
This photobook features an impressive design, printed on four different paper stocks. There is a special innovation: in addition to the documentary black and white images, we are also provided with some color screenshots taken from supplementary video and audio materials, which we can access via QR-code links printed in the book. We also get to know the ladies through some of their writings, such as diary entries, poems, and audio transcripts. These are printed on inserts with slightly smaller page sizes, thus giving us a chance to get to know the women individually: we find out about the ups and downs in their lives and the basis for shared bonds that are the cement that keeps them going over the years. As viewers and readers we get to be in the midst of authenticity, and thus can share many emotional moments as directly as possible. We get the impression that the exuberance of youth can continue to be a source of strength even in adulthood.
A project like this has major setbacks as well. Molly, a member of the group, passed away very young due to a car accident. Another member decided to drop out. Such is life; by sharing these facts and making them part of the story and its presentation, Karen Marshall adds genuine components to the reality of the group adventure which we are allowed to share; all these glimpses are valuable, since they also allows male viewers/readers to gain some insights into women’s concerns.
Some readers have wondered why my reviews contain so many positive remarks. Even though my enthusiasm for the photobooks I write about is not necessarily always “unabashed,” I very carefully select the books I write about, and they deserve the accolades. This is one of them; highly recommended.
You may also be interested in a related project that deals with a group of men, Rick Schatzberg’s The Boys, which I discussed previously.
Gerhard Clausing, PhotoBook Journal Associate Editor, is an author and photographer from Southern California.
Karen Marshall – Between Girls
Photographer: Karen Marshall (born, lives, and works in New York City)
Publisher: Kehrer Verlag, Heidelberg, Germany; © 2021
Texts: Molly, Jen G., Leslie, Jen P., Zoe, Blake, and Karen Marshall
Hardcover, illustrated, sewn binding; 268 pages, paginated; 21 x 27.5 cm / 8.25 x 10.75 inches; printed and bound in Germany. ISBN: 978-3-96900-035-9
Photobook Designers: Teun van der Heijden, Heijdens Karwei
Articles and photographs published in the PhotoBook Journal may not be reproduced without the permission of the PhotoBook Journal staff and the photographer(s).