Clare Shillands’s focused, uncluttered approach to portraiture allows the subject to breathe, drawing out the variables of different personality types with an unparalleled sense of purity. This can be felt in everything Shilland turns her hand to, especially in “Miriam”, the photo series dedicated to her young daughter. The project offers up an uncomplicated diary-like insight into Miriam’s world, like the kind of childhood photo album you wish you had: lightly-filtered but still refreshingly unaffected. To celebrate the project, which Shilland anticipates will soon be released in photo book form, her close friend and writer Melanie Carvalho, pens a short piece about Shilland, Miriam and the unique complexities that are exclusive to a mother and daughter relationship.

“The whole of motherhood is in the pictures Clare takes of her daughter, Miriam. Love, pain, My Little Pony. Face paint, skin and sweat. Or is it the whole of life? The elements are all here: water, sunlight, fire and earth. Dusty soiled feet at sunset on a hot beach, wet skin washed clean and pink in a cool bath, water drained out. The fight is over, or is it just the beginning? Clare and Miri, magnets pulling in opposite directions, that then drawn back together.

Come here. Go away. Come here.When I first met Clare, 20-years ago, we were students modelling in a friend’s college fashion show. I had been given flippers for hands, she wore a lime green fleece, her hair was in bunches. We played at being models, as Miri plays at being a model, sweet and gruesome in war paint.Yet, do I just call it playing because she is a child? In fact, she is deadly serious, reproachful even. Jet black hair and white skin. Tough, fragile and perfectly balanced.

A soft kiss curl and a sharp BCG vaccination scar. She looks right back at us. But her gaze is a soft focus, we can not meet it. She owns the moment. The focus is on the materials that Clare wraps her up in. Foam bubbles, wool blankets, damp towels, sand. They say that the love you feel for a child is unlike any other. That’strue in the sense that it is not romantic, platonic or sexual. It is sensual, and physical. We take pleasure in this flesh, our flesh. In our babies’ bodies, as they do in ours. They hold us as much as we hold them. They save us, suffocate us, they are a dead weight dragging us down, but we go down willingly, under the water, with them. Underwater love. Drowning, and yet we go back for more.”

– Melanie Carvalho

Taken from Material Magazine No 33 – get your issue here.