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.
The series Martha presents an idyllic scene that is layered with underlying tensions. It is named after the artist's stepdaughter and grew as a response to the question 'why don't you photograph me anymore?' Davey sensed that within that question there was perhaps an anxiety that Martha felt her step-mother had lost interest in her - it was almost a demand to be seen. Certainly, Martha's younger sister Alice had been the artist's primary focus for the previous 18 months. In the resulting series, the camera negotiates the thresholds and social boundaries of her stepdaughter's worlds, both within and without the family. Underlying the series is a collaborative attempt by two individuals to understand one another. Brought together to 'perform' as mother and daughter, their mutual understanding is in part framed by a shared sense of maternal absence and by the complex and fluid nature of family and friendship in the world of the adolescent.
At the start of 2021, Davey and her son Luke decided to rewild the abandoned land behind her home and create a garden. Working through a moment of personal crisis, and at a time when the rest of the world was experiencing intense and unprecendented turmoil, the garden developed into a kind of therapeutic space. In the summer, when the seeds had germinated into a mesmeric fields of flowers, she began to take photographs of the people who came to visit. At a time when many were reevaluating their relationship with personal space and freedom, the garden attracted people 'seduced by colour, bees and love' as Davey puts it. She created a devotional space, in which people feel able to express themselves through her photography. One of the requests that began to recur over the days of shooting was the desire to be photographed naked, sometimes with lovers, friends of and/or family, in pictures that illustrate a radical and self-aware intimacy.
Between 2014 and 2016, Davey completed an MA and MFA in photography. Since her degrees, she has been awarded a major commission by the Wellcome Trust (2019) as well as the W. Eugene Smith Fellowship Grant (2019). She has been the recipient of numerous awards including the Creative Review Zeitgeist Award (2018), the Royal Photographic Society Hood Medal Award (2017) and the Prix Virginia Woman's Photography Award (2016). Her work was included in the National Portrait Gallery's Taylor Wessing Portrait Award two years in a row (2015 and 2016). In 2016, her book Looking for Alice was shortlisted for the Aperture Best Book Award at Paris Photo. In 2022, the Victoria and Albert Museum in London acquired several works from her series Martha for their permanent collection.
Her most recent series The Garden has been nominated for the Prix Elysée 2022-2024.