Siân Davey was born in Brighton in 1964. She studied Fine Art painting at Bath Academy of Fine Art in 1985, was awarded a BA (Hons) in Social Policy from the University of Brighton in 1990, and went on to obtain both an MA and MFA in Photography between 2014 and 2016. In 2017, she had her first solo exhibition titled We Are Family at the National Portrait Gallery, and in 2020 she was commissioned by the Wellcome Trust for its 2020 Photo Prize. Her commission, Testament, looks at the link between anxiety and depression, and poverty.
As a teenager, she had a tough life which was rife with instability, anxiety and low self-esteem. Her parents were also struggling with mental health issues. Eventually she sought therapy which later culminated in her becoming a psychotherapist herself. She was a psychotherapist for fifteen years and ran her own practice before becoming a photographer. Her training in psychotherapy informs her work, which revolves around the themes of depression, grief and the human condition. She also references her own experiences to tell intimate, honest and moving stories through her pictures.
She has published two books: Looking for Alice and Martha. The former is a series of pictures of her daughter Alice, who was diagnosed with Down’s syndrome. It is a portrayal of what being a family entails—the highs and lows, joys and sorrows. The photographic journey was a process for her to accept and fall in love with her daughter. In 2017 she received the Hood Medal from the Royal Photographic Society for Looking for Alice. The inspiration behind Martha was a simple question from her stepdaughter, Martha, who asked Siân, “Why don’t you photograph me anymore?” in response to Siân focusing her camera more on Alice. What followed was a series of sometimes intimate but always striking photographs of the teenager Martha with her friends and family.
By Shyama Laxman