“What I experienced and witnessed in most families was a really strong sense of well-being and love towards each other, because it’s tough out there,” says Sian Davey, whose latest photoseries, Together, is about to go on display at the National Portrait Gallery in London ahead of an international tour. The photographer, who is already known for photographing her own family, was compelled to start a project that celebrated modern, diverse families after separating from her partner and seeing first hand how it affected her own family.
A psychotherapist for 15 years, Sian Davey switched careers to photography in 2014 and has made a success of it – she’s now represented by Michael Hoppen Gallery, for example, and her book Looking for Alice was nominated for the Aperture Best Book Award at Paris Photo 2016, and the Kraszna-Krausz Foundation Book Awards 2017.
Provoke: Between Protest and Performance by Diane Dufour, Matthew Witkovsky and Duncan Forbes has won Best Photography Book in the Kraszna-Krausz Foundation’s 2017 Book Awards. A celebration of the short-lived Japanese magazine, which ran for just three issues from November 1968 – August 1969, the book gathers the ground-breaking black-and-white images published by Provoke and combines with critical theory and interviews to show how influential the publication was.
On one level, Looking for Alice is an illustration of family life, says Sian Davey, with “all the tensions, joys, ups and downs that go with the territory”. But on another, this photography series challenges perceptions of difference, because it focuses on images of her youngest daughter, who was born with Down’s syndrome. “The photographs explore the entwined narratives of my relationship with my daughter, and society’s prevailing attitudes towards people with Down’s syndrome,” she says. A trained psychotherapist, Davey speaks openly about her feelings – from her “deep shock” when her Alice was born, to the gradual acceptance that allowed her to “fall in love with my daughter”. “It was not what I had expected,” she continues. “I was fraught with anxiety that rippled through to every aspect of my relationship with her… I saw that Alice was feeling my rejection and that caused me further pain. The responsibility lay with me; I had to dig deep into my own prejudices and shine a light on them.” In Davey’s photographs, we see Alice smile, cry and …