In 1985, Karen Marshall began photographing a group of teenagers in New York City. A decade older than them, her
intent was to look at the emotional bonding that happens between girls at age 16 and document the emblematic
relationships that often develop at this time in their lives. Marshall captured the girls' passage into womanhood and
Between Girls tells their story, both unique and universal.
What began as a 35mm black and white documentary photography project evolved into a thirty-year meditation on
friendship, expanding to include audio, video, and ephemera. The publication of Between Girls, marks the final resolve
of this three-decade project, allowing the reader to experience the photographs, along with other media elements
accessible via QR codes.
"In the fall of 1985, I met Molly Brover, a bright, exuberant 16 year- old high school junior, and asked if I could
photograph her and her friends. Enthusiastic to show me her Upper West Side girl world, Molly agreed, and I was
soon privy to her ever-rotating group of girlfriends, spending time with the teenagers on a regular basis and
documenting the everyday rituals of their friendship.
Molly was a vibrant and impulsive girl. She had a larger-than-life personality with wisdom beyond her years. Behind
the façade of social advisor and fun-loving friend was a deeply sensitive thinker who had yet to find her grounding in
the world. Her dark theatrical style along with her poetic and scattered energy drew my lens easily to her. She was a
natural and compelling cinematic teenager, and the circle of girls I met through her equally captivated me.
Ten months later, Molly was hit by a car and killed while on vacation in Cape Cod. I was devastated. But I resolved to
keep the project going. I knew that Molly would remain 17, while the rest of them would become women, and that
break in continuity among the girls inspired me to continue to document them in various ways over the years to come.
Understanding the rituals of friendship and the emotional connection we establish in our lives is the foundation that
supports our sense of identity and the meanings found in belonging to one another that reaches beyond gender, class,
and culture. At a time of forced isolation because of a global pandemic, a documentary about the importance of our
connections to one another could not be more paramount." - Karen Marshall
Blake with her mother, Jen and friends, 1997 © Karen Marshall from 'Between Girls'
Blake, 1994 © Karen Marshall from 'Between Girls'
Jen and Molly, 1985 © Karen Marshall from 'Between Girls'
Jen, Blake and Rachel (1985-1986) © Karen Marshall from 'Between Girls'
Karen Marshall is a documentary photographer whose work examines the psychological lives of her subjects within
the social landscape.
Her photographs have appeared in numerous publications including The New York Times Magazine, the London
Sunday Times, The Atlantic, New York Magazine, NPR Picture Show, GUP Magazine, and PDN. Marshall is the
recipient of artist fellowships and sponsorships through the New York Foundation for the Arts, as well as grants and
support from private foundations. Her photographs have been widely exhibited internationally and are part of several
collections, including the Feminist Artbase at the Brooklyn Museum.
Karen Marshall is Chair of the Documentary Practice and Visual Journalism program at the International Center of
Photography in New York City.
Leslie, Jen and Molly (1985-1986) © Karen Marshall from 'Between Girls'
Molly © Karen Marshall from 'Between Girls'