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Between You and Me
Between You and MePhotography Rosaline Shahnavaz

Exploring chance encounters through the camera lens

Taking her curiosity of in-between moments to the next level, photographer Rosaline Shahnavaz embarks on a road trip documenting the fluctuating state of female friendships

Ever locked eyes with a stranger on the tube, at the shop or in the club – convinced you know them, only to quickly recoil in the embarassment of connecting with a stranger? We've all been there. However, Photographer Rosaline Shahnavaz became obsessed with these chance encounters and the idea of fluctuating friendship. Taking her curiosity for these in-between moments to the next level and teaming up with stylist Kate Eringer, her latest neo-documentary zine entitled ‘Between You and Me’ explores the limit of the photographer and muse relationship. Throughout the pages of the zine the camera works as the eye of the reader, or a stranger, trying to gain access to a new person. The result is anything but voyeuristic, and ‘Between You and Me’ is ultimately a warm look at some of the most intimate moments of female friendship. 

What made you originally want to embark on this project?

Kate has always supported and written about my personal work and we have also worked on some editorial projects together. So we decided it would be an interesting concept to marry the two and merge fashion with documentary. Whilst all the shooting was organic and diaristic, (like my personal work), Kate had styled the girls from top to bottom. I like to blur the lines between personal and commercial. I don’t feel like they need to be totally separate things, so I tend to try and do this when I’m shooting for clients too.

Why have you decided to release ‘Between You and Me’ as a zine? 

I really enjoy the editing process. I print everything out and lay them out, (usually taking up my whole studio), then I start the process of cutting. It feels totally different to when you’re editing on a screen or for online. It’s nice to have the physical form in mind.

I also spent some of my time at uni sneaking into the bookbinding workshops and fell in love with the process. It’s amazing what you can do with your immediate resources. It has a more contemporary feel and it’s more accessible to my audience, rather than investing in a hardcover book. 

“My best friend and me used to spend literally every minute together. We were so synchronised and even had the same ‘time of the month’. I guess the biggest change when you grow up is when you get boyfriends and you start to devote more of your time to them”– Rosaline Shahnavaz

How did you choose to cast the models, Phoebe and Ellie, for this project? 

We just wanted to find two girls, two real best friends. When I met Phoebe and Ellie it instantly clicked. They were perfect for it. Their personalities are actually quite different, Ellie is more girly whereas Phoebe is more of a tom boy, there’s something a bit rebellious about her. But together they’re like two peas in a pod. Perhaps they’re like muses for one another. Opposites do attract, so I guess they admire their differences or bring it out in one another.

How do you think female friendship changes as you grow up?

My best friend and me used to spend literally every minute together. We were so synchronised… we’d finish each others sentences, order food for each other, even have the same ‘time of the month’. I guess the biggest change when you grow up is when you get boyfriends and you start to devote more of your time to your new partner. I remember the weird feeling at the end of a party when we’d actually have to say bye and part instead of having a girly sleepover. The great thing about meeting up with those old friends though is that no matter how long it has been, it feels like no time has passed. It’s funny talking about work and stuff, but you can always just completely relax and have fun. It’s a lot to do with being so comfortable with each other, you don’t even need to think.

Do you think feminism informs the way you approach photography?

I get asked this all the time, perhaps it’s because I’m a female photographing females. It seems to be a common thing at the moment, even when there’s an exhibition showcasing female artists, they tend to be categorised as feminist exhibitions, which isn’t necessarily the case. I would say my work explores female identity and relationships but not specifically focused on feminism.

This project is definitely more about female relationships for sure. Not just Phoebe and Ellie’s but all of ours. The journey and driving around England in the car made us bond very quickly. This was lucky as we’d accidentally booked a romantic honeymoon suite for all four of us (me, Kate, Phoebe and Ellie) with exceptional views of the open plan bathroom. We quickly acquainted and had no qualms with sleeping four people in a bed for two. It wouldn’t be the same if I was male, and the photographs wouldn’t have been able to happen in the same way they did.

Kate Eringer worked exclusively with Fashion East alumni This is The Uniform and Base Range for the project. How did these collaborations come about?

As the zine is part documentary, we wanted the clothing to be everyday, or at least resemblant of something Ellie or Phoebe might wear. We wanted something they could be themselves and run around in so items like the couture tracksuits really hit the nail on the head. The colourful playfulness of This is the Uniform's collection seemed perfect for our best friends and the setting.

 ‘Between You and Me’ is available from Thursday the 7th of January at the ICA (London), and at Skylight Books Annex (LA). See more of Rosaline Shanavaz's work here.