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Jen, Blake and Rachel (1985-1986) © Karen Marshall from ‘Between Girls’
Molly © Karen Marshall from ‘Between Girls’

“Each time I photographed Molly, I felt that I was on a special adventure,” Karen Marshall tells me. “She always had so much to share and to say.” The photographer met Molly, then a sixteen-year-old high school junior, in 1985 and soon became known, among her friends as “Molly’s photographer.” She’d meet up with them regularly to document their lives and adventures, set against the backdrop of New York City’s Upper West Side in the 1980s. They had a world of their own, and they allowed Marshall access.

Molly was in the class of 1987 at the Bronx High School of Science in New York. Ten months after she met Marshall, Molly was hit by a car while visiting Cape Cod for summer vacation. She died before graduation at seventeen years old. Marshall had photographed her maybe ten days earlier. “She left for the summer and never came back,” her friend Jen G. writes. 

Molly’s friends, Jen G., Leslie, Jen P., Zoe, and Blake, grew up and built lives of their own. They now live all over the country, in Manhattan, Brooklyn, New Jersey, Oregon, the Bay Area. Marshall continued to photograph them for three. She created hundreds of pictures and hours of video footage. The result of their long-time collaboration is Between Girls, a limited edition book published by Kehrer Verlag, and a multimedia project of the same name, featuring video, audio, collage, and more. 

Leslie, Jen and Molly (1985-1986) © Karen Marshall from ‘Between Girls’
Jen and Molly 1985 © Karen Marshall from ‘Between Girls’

The book is filled to the brim with remembrances, each told in the secret language of girlhood. Jen G. writes about drinking Lipton iced tea out of wine glasses, watching boats on the Hudson, reading aloud from The Great Gatsby, making bets about whether or not a boy might call, and staying out ’til four in the morning just for the joy of it. Pages from Molly’s diary feature among the photographs. We watch her girlfriends attend prom, graduate, and become women. 

Prom pictures, 1987 © Karen Marshall from ‘Between Girls’

Molly’s memory lingers, even as they evolve and move away, turning seventeen, twenty, thirty, and forty-six. In some ways, Marshall grew up with the group. She was 27 when she met Molly, but it was through her documentation of the girls that she discovered her singular way of seeing–and of immersing herself in the moment. 

“Most of the times I met up with Molly, I photographed her with her friends–or on the rare event, with each of her parents–but one time we met on our own and spent most of the time talking not photographing,” Marshall tells me now. “I learned much more about her inner thoughts and feelings that day, and it was then that I made the photograph that is on the cover of the book: an introspective portrait that reveals much about the complex spirit that she was.” 

Between Girls cover
Molly and Zoe, 1985 © Karen Marshall from ‘Between Girls’
Piper, Leslie, Jonah, Jen and Alex © Karen Marshall from ‘Between Girls’
Blake with her mother, Jen and friends, 1997 © Karen Marshall from ‘Between Girls’

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