Book Review: Sisters by Sophie Harris-Taylor
By Ava McLaughlin
“When we speak about having children, my husband only wants boys. He says, “I don’t mind one girl,” and I’ve always said, “No, you would have to have more than one girl because every girl needs a sister.” -Michelle
This book is a celebration of sisterhood, in all its glory and, sometimes, gore. Sophie Harris-Taylor spent two years photographing and interviewing over 100 pairs of sisters. Her goal was to better understand the incredibly intimate bond they share. The portraits along with the short interviews that accompany them, reveal concepts of jealousy, fear, love, and laughter that coincide at the heart of each sisterhood.
Sisterhood has been captured in art and photography throughout history. From Antigone and Ismene in Greek mythology to the famous Nicholas Nixon with his series on aging sisterhood, to classic literature like Pride and Prejudice, and even to films like Virgin Suicides, each participate in showing how sisters and their unique bonds have been fascinating the world for a long time.
But Sophie Harris-Taylor captures sisters in a new and captivating way. Through her portraiture and interviews, she uncovers the deep-rooted intricacies of sisterly bonds, something that doesn’t come across from only the initial exterior of the portraits. Inspired by her own rather distant sisterly relationship, she used this project to search for the secrets behind a strong and working connection between sisters.
Although each pairing of sisters captured are unique in their own way, some common themes emerge during their interviews. These themes include ideas of trust, jealousy, memory, loss, protectiveness, and of course, unconditional love. She found both positive and negative aspects; although the sisters spoke to each other with no filter and pure honesty, there was still often a level of sticking together and using the other as a crutch.
Her technique of using natural and available light added to the honesty of the project, serving to foster a greater connection between subject and viewer. The honesty is apparent in the body language of the women featured as well. There are weary looks and defensive stares into the camera, but there’s also loving hand-holding and clinging closely in each other’s arms, showing the diversity of relationships and the constant roller coaster of emotions. The chosen settings are also a tell of honesty. The sisters are captured in their bedrooms, homes, and gardens, offering us another glance into the relationships of the sisters, though we ultimately remain outside of their intimacy.
These bare portraits are about giving insight into the world of sisterhood in all its quirks, intimacies, and wonderfulness. This book offers an easy connection to anyone with a sister and allows relation to the emotions that go with that connection, good or bad, fun or frustrating, but always, with love. ‘Sisters’ has the power to make even those who don’t have this familial bond begin to understand it.