One Photographer’s Tender, Time-Spanning Portrait of His Girlfriend

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Duane by Cobey Arner
DuanePhotography by Cobey Arner

“Duane begins with Claire as a girl, and ends with her as a woman – I definitely noticed this transition in her eyes,” says Cobey Arner of his new photo book

New York-based photographer Cobey Arner first met his girlfriend Claire Banse through a mutual friend. “My buddy randomly reached out to me one day and said, ‘Hey, I have this friend, and I think you guys would be great together,’” Arner recalls, speaking from his downtown apartment on the Lower East Side in New York. “I followed up a month later and I said, ‘I would love to see if Claire’s around for a coffee.’ And it was just off to the races after that.”

Arner and Banse have been together for two years now and his latest photo book Duane, published by Friend Editions, documents the progression of their relationship in the spaces most sacred to them, with the initial shots depicting Banse when they first began dating. “As the book progresses, the narrative of our relationship evolves,” Arner explains. “And you can see how more comfort and familiarity is built over time.”

The couple’s journey into intimacy is softly evoked by Banse’s positionings among the minutiae of their everyday lives: crumpled pillows belonging inside a motel room, mismatched socks drying on the radiator, friends’ living rooms, empty wine glasses, and teddy bears peeking out of invitingly warm bedding.

The launch of the book was an intimate affair, taking place at Bacaro – an Italian restaurant just down the road from the pair’s flat, which they frequently visit to indulge in a bowl of pasta.

Here, in his own words, Arner tells us more about Duane.

“Last spring, I had this idea to make a book about Claire. The original plan was to include lots of iPhone shots I took of her, which I’ve since edited out, as I think capturing her on film was the most special part.

“I’ve always loved this idea of a muse as a subject that is constantly photographed over a long period of time. I made a book recently with The Society Archive and Friend Editions called 1999, which featured a guy called Izaake, who was photographed over the span of two years. I think there’s something incredibly special about documenting a person as they grow in different environments. It’s about putting out personal work which is full of the things which matter the most to me.

“I love the in-between moments of people in their own spaces. New York is a great backdrop to take photographs; Claire and I live downtown in the Lower East Side, so there’s always a lot of character down here. There’s also a lot of photos taken in LA, which has its own golden light and differs hugely from the light belonging to New York.

“There are also a few pictures of Claire when she came to visit my family in Georgia. There’s one photo in the book where Claire is standing in front of this wallpaper that’s been in my parents’ home since the 1980s. They’ve lived there since 1998, but that was the one wall they never changed. Having her stand there in a red sweater and posing by the wall was really sentimental to me because it’s two different parts of my life coming together. That’s the wall I stared at while having breakfast when I was six years old.

Duane begins with Claire as a girl, and ends with her as a woman – I definitely noticed this transition in her eyes. You might also spot that her tooth is also missing throughout a lot of these photos, which was actually a big motivation for putting this book out; the narrative begins when Claire still had her tooth, and then she loses said tooth halfway through. She’s actually getting a new one next month – so who knows, maybe that will be the story belonging to the next book!” 

Duane by Cobey Arner is published by Friend Editions and is out now.