In Francesca Allen’s second monograph I’d like to get to know you, she turns her lens on her younger sister, Alida
Few relationships compare to ones we have with our siblings: the push and pull of love and hate, highs and lows. But as we grow up, the forced togetherness of childhood no longer holds. It’s then that a question arises: how well do we know each other?
In I’d like to get to know you, the sisters “reimagine” their relationship through a series of staged shoots backdropped by the sun-soaked summer of rural Devon, England. It’s a bittersweet document of family ties, re-tied. And as the gaze flips between the sisters, we witness a change not only in how they see each other, but how they feel too. Below, the photographer tells us more.
Tell us a little about how this book came about and why did you want to do it?
Francesca Allen: I love working on projects over longer periods with something tangible at the end. Similar to my first book, I spent a lot of time creating the images, and it felt right to make something I could hold in my hands. I like how permanent a book is: it gives a project weight.
What was the thinking behind the title, I’d like to get to know you?
Francesca Allen: I toyed with so many different ideas for the title, but nothing was feeling quite right; I wanted something that felt conversational. It tells the story of the project, but also leaves it open to interpretation.
Tell us a bit more about your and Alida’s relationship while growing up?
Francesca Allen: It’s funny – I felt good about putting out a project with a very personal story behind it, but now it’s out there, I feel so much resistance to wanting to answer this type of question, but I made my bed… We were never particularly close growing up. At some points, we have been, but it’s never come naturally to us. We are very different people, and I think we’ve experienced life differently.
The press notes describe your relationship with your sister as “reimagined” in this book. In what ways is that so?
Francesca Allen: We are closer; you can’t spend that much time with someone and not feel differently about each other. We are both in our twenties now and it’s nice to be grownups together.
What are some of the tensions that arose while shooting this with your sister?
Francesca Allen: It’s sort of a strange dance you do when you don’t know somebody that well. You are constantly testing their boundaries to find where they draw the line. I think the images show that push and pull between us. Sometimes we would have the ability to be vulnerable with each other; other days we regressed to childhood.
How did making this project change your relationship, and ultimately how you view Alida?
Francesca Allen: Photographing somebody is an innately intimate experience. You put yourself in situations you wouldn’t usually be in and cross lines you might not dream of under other circumstances. Spending this length of time with Alida was invaluable. Each image represents a different part of her personality, and the project serves as documentation of our relationship.
I’d like to get to know you launches at 10 14 Gallery in London on 23 March 2022