“Why don’t you photograph me anymore?”
This is what Martha said to me in response to my camera being focused so often on her sister Alice. It took me by surprise. I wasn’t aware that she would care, but clearly she did.
The work began when Martha was 16 years of age, a time when a child is on that cusp of being and becoming a woman. It’s a particular period of time, when for a brief period you are 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 human space when a person can behave free of 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 stepmother, as mentor and friend, but where I am and where I place myself become a more questioning issue as she grows and moves further away from her childhood. The exchange of looks between us, that complex ref lected gaze, begins to shift as she tries to define her own sense of self, to decide who she is becoming.
In the process of working together in this series, we have journeyed into each other’s psychological landscapes as we have explored what our relationship means. Both our mothers loved us but were felt as absent in our lives. We both mirror each other’s maternal wounding, this became the common ground to move forward from.
And then there is the young woman shaping herself as a social being. Her group of friends are a safeguard, a source of protection as she moves into this new world.
But this new family is also a new learning ground where she first begins to make sense of how she understands the psychological and existential territories of intimacy, love and belonging. And here, too quickly, the idyll becomes infused with all the tensions of adulthood.
You can find out more, and buy your copy of 'Martha', on the Trolley Books website, here.
Image © Siân Davey, courtesy of Michael Hoppen Gallery