Anne Massoni and Chelsy C. Usher's "Yours And Mine" Photo Series Is A Powerful Representation Of Long-Distance Friendship
How long has it been since you've seen your best friend? It's been nearly a year for me; we haven't lived in the same state since we graduated high school 12 years ago, so the joyous reunion we had last summer had been a long time coming. Technology makes it pretty easy to keep in touch these days, but it hasn't always been that way — something which Anne Massoni and Chelsy C. Usher's photo series “Yours and Mine” drives home. But when you have a friendship you can't imagine living without? Let's just say it's worth it to go that extra mile.
Massoni and Usher met by chance in 2006 when Usher moved into the apartment above Massoni's in Chestertown, Maryland. According to The Cut, they both had moved to Chesterton for different reasons — Massoni to help her mother recover from a mastectomy, Usher for a partner — and neither ended up staying there for long; but during their six months as neighbors, they developed the sort of close friendship that lasts a lifetime. As Usher prepared to move to San Diego to join the Coast Guard and Massoni got ready to leave for Memphis to teach photography at the Memphis College of Art, they made each other a promise: To stay in touch — and to do it creatively.
The impetus for the project that would become “Yours and Mine” came in October of 2006. Wrote Massoni on her website:
One evening, I received a late night and rather lonely “what are you up to” text message from Chelsy, who had been relocated to a patrol boat in San Diego, California. Also missing her, I sent a cell phone image back. The image contained half of my face and half of my pillow, because what I had been “up to” was sleeping. Nearly simultaneously, the image was returned, only this time it was Chelsy's face on her own pillow hundreds of miles away. It seemed, despite our distance, our thoughts were not far from one another's.
And it all spun out from there. Over the next year, Massoni and Usher exchanged 1,630 images, each featuring half of their faces set against what Massoni termed “the background of our lives as we move through them.” They had few rules for their project: The photos could be snapped whenever, wherever, and more than one could be sent a day — but they had to send at least one photo every day, and once they had taken a photo, they absolutely had to send it.
A project like this may not seem that unusual now, but it takes on a whole new meaning when you consider when the two friends under took it: 2006 to 2007, eight to nine years ago. They both had Motorola Razrs — no fancy smartphones — and “selfie culture” wouldn't become the fixture we know it as today for a number of years. The cost, too was astronomical: As Massoni noted to The Cut, “We had given no considerations to the data we were sending back and forth all the time. That meant huge phone bills. Huge.”
When you take a look at it all through that lens, it speaks volumes: About their dedication, about their creative natures, and most importantly, about the strength of their friendship. Friendships take work to maintain, and they take even more when they're carried out over a distance. Something like "Yours and Mine?" That's how you know it's a friendship for life.
We often joke about cultural phenomena like “frexting,” but I think the reason we joke about them is to make the distances between us easier to bear. It's that whole “I laugh, because I'll cry if I don't” thing. It's hard when your best friend lives far away, but sharing things together despite the distance is what makes it seem like you're not so far away from each other after all. Sometimes, the thing you share is laughter; sometimes, it's tears; and sometimes it's just a photograph.
I say “just a photograph”… but of course, there's nothing “just” about these photographs.
Massoni has displayed “Yours and Mine” at galleries across the country, both in a 50-foot-long grid and as diptychs; she's also created a video featuring all 1,630 photographs, which you can see below. Check out the full series over at Massoni's website.
Images: Courtesy Anne Massoni