Photographer Sophie Harris-Taylor's new book, Sisters, captures that unique and intimate connection that can only be shared between sisters. Each picture is accompanied by their own stories and conversations, offering a heartwarming look at the deep and at times complex relationship of sisterhood.
Here, Sophie Harris-Taylor shares with BuzzFeed News a selection of portraits from Sisters, accompanied by their stories written by author Emma Finamore, as well as insight into how her own relationship with her sister influenced the book.
For years, I felt a pressure to conform and have a kind relationship with my own sister, which for so many reasons didn’t come naturally. I began reflecting on this and became interested in exploring the dynamics of sisterhood further. Not quite knowing what I was looking to capture or where it would lead to, I put out a request on social media asking for sisters to take part in a photographic project. It really began quite organically and then developed into something much larger than I had initially imagined.
Having had a difficult relationship with my own sister, I wanted to find in some way the answers to my own flawed relationship and find the secrets to a strong bond and connection.
Sisterhood is one of the most complex human relationships that is so often overlooked. There are so many elements at play — familiarity, trust, competition, love, understanding, etc. The fact that they come from the same home, are usually born in the same era, same gender, and spend a lifetime developing together, makes it a fascinating and unusual example of human development and dynamics.
I found probably the most interesting thing was how individual perspectives of past events differ. Despite every sister having a lifetime of memories with each other, it’s amazing how differently these were interpreted. Ultimately, and perhaps this should have been obvious from the start, each relationship with even the closest of sisters I met was not without its flaws.
Often just through the process of talking, the sisters seemed to find something valuable. I think all of us, men and women, friends and family, can gain something from reflecting on and being more aware of our relationships, especially those we are closest to.
Anna (age 28) and Kate (37)
Almost 10 years apart, these two live far apart too — Kate in the US and Anna in London. Growing up, Anna was wrapped up in cotton wool and close to her parents, while Kate was more independent, the black sheep of the family. Nowadays, Anna is the social butterfly; Kate can be more socially awkward. The rare time they do manage to spend together is pretty intense, but it means they value it all the more.
Kate: “I’m envious… but not in a negative way. I think Anna is so ridiculously talented and beautiful, and I’m quite jealous that she’s taller than me and has more freckles.”
Anna: “It’s exactly the same for me — envious — ’cause Kate’s the better-looking, more talented, brainier achiever of the family.”
Anne (62) and Meng (61)
Growing up in Malaysia, Anne was a miniskirt-wearing rebel in matching knickers like her heroine Twiggy, running around with a gang of boys, riding about on baby cows, making catapults and toy guns, while Meng stayed home being good. Anne’s rebellious streak got her sent to an English-style boarding school, escaping the chores that Meng — educated in the Chinese system — was responsible for in the family home. The contrasts continued into adulthood, but they’re closer now despite their differences.
Meng: “I was always jealous of her.”
Anne: “I was never jealous of you.”
Flo (20), Millie (16), Clara (15), Bea (6), Cecily (8), and Oki (11)
This big group of sisters (with three brothers too, so there are nine siblings in total) has formed smaller groups within the unit. Often the youngest two are best friends, and the teens team up. Flo and Oki call themselves the "holding forces," bridging the gap between the youngers and elders, while Flo supports everyone as the oldest. She spends long stretches away from home on tour as a musician, which can be painful — Flo misses out on seeing the youngest growing up, while they all wish she could be around more.
Bea: “I’m having seven children and three dogs and a cat and two fish and a hamster, but I also might want to adopt children.”
Freya (11) and Georgia (16)
Like many sisters of their age, these two have a love-hate relationship. Freya steals clothes from Georgia’s room, and when Georgia has friends over she’ll hang around wanting to join in the fun, which causes arguments. Their rooms are next to each other, though, so they often talk and do nails together; when Georgia goes away they stay in touch on Instagram, but Freya misses having someone to talk to in the car.
Georgia: “I always wanted a younger sister and I was begging Mum… please, please have another one.”
Grace (17) and Jessie (8 months)
This is a very new relationship: Jessie is just 8 months old. Grace was an only child until three years ago when her little brother (Jessie’s older brother) was born, and she thinks this has given her the best of both worlds: Now she has the fun of experiencing siblings — and they’ll never have to fight over toys. Grace already thinks her brother is like her, while her baby sister is more laid-back.
Grace: “She’s so young, she doesn’t really have any personality yet.”
Lizzie (26) and Flo (21)
Lizzie and Flo lived alone without their parents for four years when Lizzie was in her late teens/early twenties and Flo was a teenager. This meant growing up quickly, and Lizzie taking on the responsible, parental role as much as she could. Flo idolized her older sister — even her smoking — and the pair have ended up with very similar mannerisms — sometimes it can feel like talking into a mirror.
Flo: “I’m probably more happy and comfortable in Lizzie’s company than anyone else’s.”
Clare (55) and Juliet (60)
These sisters have had very different lives. Clare has struggled for independence despite a disability, while Juliet has had to support the whole family (at least that’s how it feels) including their other two sisters. Clare was sent to boarding school when she was 7 and was terribly homesick, but the two still share some childhood memories like taking the blue pram out for a walk with their dolly called "Pixie" and going to the corner shop for ice cream. Juliet admires Clare’s strength, even if she doesn’t always answer the phone.
Clare: “You’re very helpful and kind.”
Juliet: “I thought you were going to say, ‘She’s an old boot.’”
Clare: “Shut up.”
Rachel (27) and Michelle (31)
Despite both being quite quiet, Michelle and Rachel speak to each other daily — sometimes hourly — via FaceTime, text, WhatsApp, or Instagram. They both live with their husbands now but still socialize a lot and love to travel together. They reminisce about their crazy trip to Las Vegas, or a time in Ibiza when Michelle remembers a scorching hot walk back from a tiny beach, with their hair big and curly from sea and sunshine, giggling as they went.
Michelle: “When we speak about having children my husband only wants boys and he is like, ‘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.’”
Mimi (4) and Coco (9)
Though they might argue about sharing things and sometimes interrupt each other’s playdates, Mimi and Coco are pretty good friends. In fact, that’s how they usually make up after a fight: Mimi will ask if they can be friends again. They love sharing a bedroom because at night they can go mad and chat until the small hours and jump around. Mimi will also get into Coco’s bed when she’s had a bad dream about the scary creature coming up the stairs.
Coco: “She likes to be the same as me.”
Mimi: “I sometimes call Coco ‘Mimi.’”
Rhianne (14), Anaya (11), Sienna (6), and Kianna (4)
The youngest two in this group are self-proclaimed opposites: Sienna is a tomboy, into cars and Xbox and climbing trees like a monkey, while Kianna is a "girly girl." With four brothers as well, Rhianne sees herself as in the middle. She and Anaya aren’t keen on sharing a room, except when they can’t sleep at night.
Rhianne: “I don’t like cheese and tomato, and they all like cheese and tomato.”
Rochelle (25) and Sabrina (27)
Both chameleons, these sisters can seamlessly slot into each other’s social worlds — it doesn’t matter that Sabrina is a self-described mainstream Essex girl (despite being the wild child when they were young) while Rochelle, an actor, is more arty. They lived apart for a few years when their parents divorced — a shock, as they’d seemed like the perfect Brady Bunch family — but they would meet every Monday at the Windsor pub in Paddington to keep up their sisterly bond.
Rochelle: “Literally every Monday we would meet up and we would set the world to rights, and catch up and have a moan and a cry, and have a week’s worth of sisterhood in that time.”
Sam (46) and Vicky (45)
These sisters are the same star sign but have completely different personalities. Vicky is wilder and will cry at anything, where Sam tends not to show her emotions, except when she argued with their dad as a teenager — she always had to have the last word — and last summer on holiday, when she threw a drink in Vicky’s face. They both work in PR now, so maybe they’re more alike than they think.
Vicky: “We’ve talked about moving out of London and I don’t know if I could do that ’cause I wouldn’t be near to her; it would be weird.”
Sam: “We will be in an old people’s home together.”
Zita (10) and Unity (12)
Unity and Zita like having each other around — a sister is someone to talk to but also someone to play funny pranks on. Unity feels protective over Zita, sometimes even when her friends come over to play, but gets annoyed when her younger sister copies her. She’s also the quieter of the two, and Zita is more boisterous (at least in public) but they enjoy the same music and toys, and are very good at sharing these. They both like roller coasters too, sharing the thrill of speeding up and down, and enjoy a good argument — as long as it doesn’t last too long.
Unity: “Sometimes if I’m angry, I can talk to Zita really fast ’cause she will understand. We read each other’s minds, I know exactly how she’s thinking.”