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On a cold January evening, Francesca Jane Allen welcomes me into her north London home with a warm tea and an equally warm smile. I presume this certainly encourages her subjects to be so wild and free with their emotions. Allen's work delves into the daily rituals and teenage dreams of the hot and cool generation. The young photographer, who has shot for magazines and fashion labels alike, already possesses a distinctive aesthetic, developed from her extensive experience in the field. Allen manages to capture the essence of the world of her contemporaries with remarkable clarity and vibrancy. Her portrayal of each of her subjects is honest, nuanced and possesses a life of its own.

Could you tell us something about yourself?

I am 21 and have lived in London for 4 years now. I am originally from Cornwall via LA and Norway. I have been taking pictures since I was 15, or maybe 16.

How did you first get into photography?

I always had an interest in painting and drawing, but I do not really have the patience for it. Photography is much more instantaneous, and I have a bad temper, which does not work well with longer creative processes, such as painting. For instance, I worked on a painting in school for five months and then all of a sudden I just threw it away.

How would you describe your work?

I would say my photos are hedonistic. They are just pictures of people that I enjoy and find interesting. So I guess my work is very self-indulgent. I am not sure I want to give it a label or a description, it is just what it is. I think one should take it at face-value.

How do you choose your subjects?

A lot of them are friends of mine. I also like following one same subject, so a lot of the people I photograph I’ve been portraying for years. I have been taking pictures of a girl called Ophelia and her friend Theo for about a year and a half now. I think they were 13 or 14 when I first started photographing them and they’re sort of getting older. To me, it’s very interesting to follow them for a period of time, which is something I am planning to continue with.

Your final project at university is called GIRLS! GIRLS! GIRLS! and showcases photos of many young girls in different environments. A unifying element is the feeling of freedom experienced by the subjects, but also the creation of a very intimate space within the picture. In what way do you think your experience as a female photographer informs that dimension of honesty imbued by the subject within the picture?

I think people can feel quite comfortable around me. It might be true especially for younger girls, but also any girl. I guess it depends on how you perceive yourself and how confident you are, not so much about your age. I would much rather have my photo taken by a woman. I think women are slightly less intimidating and this allows people to feel relaxed.
I wrote my dissertation about new feminism within photography and how the label of feminism is imposed on women photographers. At university a lot of the tutors, especially the male ones, used to say that my work is feminist, although it is not feminist at all. I do call myself a feminist, but my work does not reflect that in any sort of way. My photos are just a portrayal of girls. If I were a guy I would think of it as feminist, but I believe it is something that is shafted onto female photographers and artists regardless. Just because you are a woman it has to be feminist, and a lot of women artists probably feel they need to live up to that. I think I am a feminist in the way that it’s just how I am. Although the internet wave of feminism is good, it is not just about body hair.

You worked with a lot of big clothing brands and fashion magazines, so what is your relationship with fashion?

I really enjoy it. Fashion is not my main interest, my relationship with it is very conflicted. I don’t think fashion and models should dictate how people should behave and live, but at the same time I appreciate the frivolity and fun it provides.

The girls in your photos look rather different from what we see in fashion magazines’ editorials. They seem at peace with themselves and somehow uninterested in the viewer. Is your work proactively trying to defeat fashion standards in the depiction of women and their bodies?

I think my work might coincidentally be doing so. However, I have noticed that the process of shooting both myself and my friends naked has erased the feeling of being uncomfortable with our own bodies. On a personal level, it certainly did actively change the way my friends and I felt, but I cannot speak for everyone.

Nature consistently appears in your photos. Why is that?

Green is probably my least favourite colour in photos, but is in most of them. A lot of my work is set outdoors because I feel it is easier for my subjects to be playful in a natural setting. The countryside can be quite neutral, despite English landscapes being very recognizable.

Since graduating from university, you have been working on major editorials and campaigns. What advice would you feel like sharing with other young emerging photographers?

First and foremost it is important to be friendly. Working hard every day and not being afraid to ask questions are also integral. Potential employers and photography subjects always want to work with people that strike them as enthusiastic and interesting, which is why you should keep emailing and asking around until an opportunity comes along.

How do you feel about social media? I am thinking of photography-friendly platforms such as Flickr, Tumblr and Instagram.

I think online presence is unavoidable, especially as a young photographer. I feel people look you up on Instagram now whereas before they would check your website. Instagram has effectively become an equivalent to a portfolio, and I definitely use mine for that. A great deal of artists and creatives get work through social media, I guess it’s the modern word of mouth.

Could you tell us a bit about your current projects?

I haven’t worked on anything personal in a while. Some time ago I met with one of my old tutors and he told me that the times when I don’t have any commissioned work are when I should work on my own things. I am currently working on some editorials and I am going to be in LA for a month. There I am going to try and shoot every single day. A lot of my best friends and people I have photographed live out there so I want to treat that month as a big bulk project. I will be shooting every day and then coming back and doing a show or making a zine.

I noticed your photos often seem to contain glimpses of travels that have particularly influenced you, and California seems to hold a special place in your heart. What do you find so inspirational about the place?

Before graduating I went away for a while. I was in Mexico for a month then in LA for five weeks. It has been an amazing experience. I really like California and the way it looks, which is why I find it quite interesting to make work there. At the time I do not think I really made as much work as I could have. I suppose I used the trip as a trigger for a thought process. Now that I am going back I am confident I can make the work that I wanted to make last time. I feel like I am not very good at doing things then and now; sometimes I am, but I like to revisit things. Perhaps I should be more spontaneous, but now that I’m going back I know what I want to achieve.


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