Aya offers insight into the life of a young Japanese woman living in Tokyo. Francesca Allen (b. 1993, British) shares an intimate month spent with musician Aya Yanase, also known as Aya Gloomy. Unable to speak the same language, the series documents a growing friendship using photography as the sole medium of communication.
We first meet Aya in the suburbs of Tokyo. Her tiny apartment is beneath that of her Grandma who sometimes throws snacks from her balcony for Aya to catch. Aya’s home is full to the brim of everything one could imagine, with piles of dishes and clothes everywhere.
The month is simultaneously the happiest but most exhausting time; Francesca and Aya do everything together. Taking photographs becomes almost secondary. They introduce each other to their friends, they stay out too late and miss the train, sleeping at friends’ houses and Aya is shy and giggling when she gets undressed. The personal exposure involved in making the intimate public is tender and rare. This series of photographs enables a window into the vulnerabilities of both women who almost revel in the novelty of the experience. Aya is one year younger than Francesca, and they meet at similar points in their lives, perhaps feeling similar things.
As their relationship develops, the book narrows in on a delicate and exciting period of new womanhood. The work builds a sense of belonging and friendship as Francesca turns her gaze adoringly on Aya, harnessing her energy to reveal strength and fragility. Aya is the represented subject, but through her photographs and the relationship that emerges between the two women, the division between representer and subject is diffused and we also understand a little of Francesca.