She has become one of the most decorated and celebrated emerging photographers in the country, with a focus upon the quiet and intimate moments of family life. Lauded by critics and subject to commissions from international organisations, it is fair to say that Sian Davey’s world has changed dramatically since she enrolled on – and graduated from – the MA Photography programme at Plymouth.
Receiving a visit from CONNECT at her home on the Dartington Estate in Totnes, Sian is – as usual – doing a myriad of things at once. She has been up since 5am to get her children ready for the day ahead and has just returned from her daily yoga class which, she admits, is the one time she can truly slow down and switch off. Now though, she is back at full tilt and as we talk, is packing up copies of her book Looking for Alice to take with her to another awards ceremony, this time in Paris.
“I’d had quite a turbulent upbringing and wanted to put the world to rights,” she says, looking back to her first experiences at university, when she enrolled on a fine art degree at the University of Brighton. “So I switched to politics and social policy, but then when I got to my graduation, I realised that I didn’t want to go into social work or housing like my fellows on the degree. I knew that in order to find my path, I first had to find myself.”
This Sian did by taking herself away from family and friends to enrol at a Tibetan Buddhist monastery in Scotland. It enabled her to reflect upon life and spiritual practice, helping her to respond to the world around her, rather than just railing against it. Indeed, it shaped her career for the next 15 years, as she began to practise as a humanistic psychotherapist.
It was only after a series of traumatic personal events that she picked up her camera and started taking pictures, realising that it was helping to relieve her personal pain. In her words, how she saw the world was in the pictures she was producing.
“At that moment, photography was a necessity,” Sian says. “But whatever I do – family, work, whatever – I throw myself into it and am completely committed. As with many things in my life, I quickly realised this was a spiritual path I had to go down and that spirituality remains an integral part of my work and keeps my heart open.”