One particular sister becomes another’s day job

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Liv Liberg was 10 years old when the lady began photographing her young sister. The activity became a 15-year collaboration: a compelling series of images that reflect the sisters’ ever-evolving relationship

The bond between sisters, no matter how shut they are, contains an inevitable drama. Power dynamics are usually established early on. Often one particular leads, and the other follows. Liv Liberg was 10 years old when she began photographing her younger cousin, Britt. The endeavour started as an act of play and imagination in their family home in the Dutch countryside, yet evolved into a 15-year cooperation. In Liberg’s first book, Sister , released by Art Paper Editions, she charts this visual continuum, which weaves multiple lines of inquiry through the language of fashion and performance to animate her sisters coming of age. “It was never planned, ” Liberg explains. “It was just something we always did. Even if my sister is at a bad mood, we would still do it. We are super near and connected, and I can achieve things with her which i can’t with other models. It’s about being sisters. ”

Looking at Liberg’s pictures, I think about the expression of young womanhood and how raw, fragile and tender these photographs are. Raw because they remind us of the physical plus emotional discomfort of an entire body in flux – a powerful journey of self-discovery growing into ourselves and obtaining our power. Naturally, this involves a sense of trial and error, which performs out in Sister Sibling with palpable force. Many of the most powerful work is the firmly cropped portraits, which describe the macro and tiny physical shifts that happen with time. And, as Britt gets older, we watch her expressions transition from an angelic passivity to an active, sometimes suspicious or important, participant in the work.  

© Liv Liberg, courtesy Art Document Editions.

Their mutual like of fashion, particularly the influence of their mother as an symbol of femininity, also shapes the sister’s collaboration. “We would sneak into the walk-in closet of our parents and always discover something new, ” Britt remembers. “At a few point, our parents put a lock on it because, although we often did it secretly, they found out we were using Yamamoto suits in the rainy forest or Comme des Garçons dresses on the farm close to the cows. ” The images conjure a sense of fantasy plus admiration and describe the way we metabolise the influence of the leading figures in our lifestyles. “Apart from trying to replicate fashion photography, I was also looking at our mom, ” Liberg explains. “She is really beautiful and was never without her red lipstick and pearl earrings. I always admired her femininity, and am was always trying to recreate it. ”

The work furthermore celebrates the nuances of the sister’s relationship. Liberg’s pictures capture a childlike sense of inhibition framed within their closeness as siblings. And this is grounded by their “free upbringing, ” and an unrelenting desire to perform plus play. “The shoots were always dramatic, ” Britt shares. “We were either laughing so hard that acquiring photos was impossible, or we were fighting like sisters do. But actually, these were always the best ones. The fighting was not without reason, though. It happened when my sister decided to include me in Vaseline or even when I needed to stay in some weird pose that I didn’t even know my body can hold. Once, she place me outside in a laundry box in the snow. Yet I guess that’s just what sisters do. ” Britt’s malleability as a subject derives in part from her devotion with her sister and her creative vision. The willingness in order to exist in discomfort, in order to reveal herself and the girl body, is the sort that may only manifest within a profound foundation of trust.  

© Liv Liberg, courtesy Art Document Editions.

© Liv Liberg, courtesy Art Paper Editions.

© Liv Liberg, courtesy Art Paper Editions.

© Liv Liberg, courtesy Art Paper Versions.

The passage of time is what makes the work so remarkable. The particular book presents the archive in a 12-month framework, enabling a muddling of time plus space in each chapter that transports viewers many years at the turn of a web page. The sequencing serves the particular project well by animating multiple narrative threads and reinforcing the obsessive nature of the work. It also conceptually foregrounds an emotional tempo, the ebb and flow of an close relationship. As you move through the months, it becomes harder in order to discern where Britt’s functionality ends, and Liberg’s vision begins. The two become mutually entwined, animating the unique power in picturing familial provides. And reminding us that the photograph is something anybody can take, but accessing the relationship is sacred.

Sister is definitely published by Art Document Editions. An exhibition associated with SISTER SIBLING by Liv Liberg will run at Multiplemadé , Amsterdam, from 12 06 to 21 July 2021.

Gem Fletcher

Creative director, writer, podcaster plus photo director, Gem Fletcher works across visual-cultural fields, focusing on emerging talent within contemporary photography and artwork. She is the photo movie director of Riposte Magazine, and hosts a photography podcasting, The Messy Truth.

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