“Why don’t you photograph me anymore?” This is what Martha said in response to me focusing my camera so often on her sister Alice. It took me by surprise. I wasn’t aware that she would care, but clearly she did.
This work began when Martha was 16 years old, a time when a child is on that cusp of being and becoming a woman. It’s a particular period of time—for a brief period, one is both a young woman and child in the same body, before the child leaves and the young woman stands on her own to meet the world. It’s a complex and potentially confusing time.
During this period of transition, there is a very short time period in which a person can behave without being burdened by the weight of societal expectations and norms. Before long, that window closes and we can easily forget how it felt to be “untethered.”
But the work is also, inevitably, about Martha and myself. I am always there as the photographer, as her step-mother, as mentor and friend, but where I am and where I place myself is harder to place as she grows and moves further away from her childhood. The exchange of looks between us, that complex reflected gaze, begins to shift as she tries to define her own sense of self, to decide who she is becoming.
Through the process of working together on this series, we have journeyed into each other’s psychological landscapes as we explore what our relationship means. We mirror one another’s wounds: both our mothers loved us but were absent. This became the common ground to move forward from.
‘Martha’ will be published by Trolley Books in Spring 2018, with a Foreword by Kate Bush, curator of photography at Tate Britain. Please support the book in advance by pre-ordering and receive the book at a special discounted price.
Siân Davey is a photographer with a background in Fine Art and Social Policy. She has worked as a humanist psychotherapist for the past 15 years, and it is this training that has helped facilitate an acute and nuanced awareness of both herself and her immediate worlds. Her work is an investigation of the psychological landscapes of herself, her family and her community, all of which are central to her practice.
Siân has recently completed her MA and MFA in photography. She has been the recipient of numerous awards including more recently, the Arnold Newman Award for New Directions in Portraiture and the Prix Virginia Woman's Photography Award. Her work has been included in the National Portrait Gallery's Taylor Wessing Portrait Award for the last three years. Her book 'Looking for Alice', published by Trolley Books in 2015 was shortlisted for the Aperture Best Book Award at Paris Photo 2016. She is represented by Michael Hoppen.