Sisters by Dean Davies

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Marni-Lee and Amelia by Dean Davies
Marni-Lee and Amelia by Dean Davies

The British photographer lenses a series of candid, coming-of-age portraits in his home town of Birkenhead, Merseyside

Dean Davies' images occupy a unusual space between fashion and documentary photography – a distinctive culmination of lo-fi styling, candid compositions, and familiar (albeit gritty) urban architecture. "A friend once described my practice as 'documentary fiction' and that's a tag that I feel comfortable with," he reveals, adding, "also, none of my portraits are posed. Instead I choose to capture how a subject interacts with their environment."

From rubber-limbed adolescents loitering in the halls of Salford Shopping Centre, to football-shirt clad tweens, his striking images are rooted in youth culture and aim to explore how a person is shaped by both happen circumstance and their local community. "Individual shoots are inspired by my memories of childhood and adolescence. I grew up in a working-class town as the youngest in a family of four, so there are visual cues of my own story embedded within the photographs," he muses. That said, it comes as little surprise that Davies returned to his native Birkenhead in Merseyside to shoot his latest project: a series of styled potraits that features sisters, Marni-Lee (aged 12) and Amelia (aged 10). Here, he sheds light on the concept behind the story... 

On the inspiration behind the shoot... 
"Originally I planned for this to be a styled series on female youth, but having photographed Marni-Lee and Amelia first, I knew their portraits had the weight to be a standalone series. I wanted to create a series of portraits that represented two young sisters. The girls seem and act much older than their years and I wanted to document the calm power and determination that they radiate." 

On capturing the true essence of Marni-Lee and Amelia 
"Marni-Lee and Amelia have an incredible presence in front of the camera, and as they are sisters it’s fascinating to watch them riff off each other – laughing, arguing and play fighting all within the space of a few minutes. It’s this connection that added depth to the photographs. While one sister was having her portrait taken, the other would act as photographer’s assistant, holding the kit, taking the light meter readings and mouthing off at on-lookers. In between shots we ate at Subway, listened to TOWIE dance anthems (their choice of course) and watched YouTube videos. Apparently Vloggers are all the rage." 


On the photo he is most proud of from the series 
"My favourite still is one that captures Amelia draped over Marni-Lee’s back. It was the last shot of film on that day and I told them to do whatever they wanted for it. This was the result." 

On the art of accessible styling
"I source or create pieces that aren’t alien to the subjects, be it in style or price tag. I feel that styling should used to enhance the subject’s character and the photograph’s narrative."