“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.

—Sian Davey

If you’re interested in seeing more work on this and similar topics, we’d recommend the following articles: Mother—The Images I Still Love, an exclusive set of unpublished images from Elinor Carucci’s remarkable photobook; Fairytale, an eerie, dream-like series that creates an alternate world for the photographer’s daughter; and The Milky Way, a project that explores the mercurial, mysterious time between childhood and adolescence.