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Sian Davey: Looking for Alice

Artist’s Statement:

My daughter Alice was born with Downs Syndrome but, fundamentally, she is no different to any other human being. She feels what you and I feel, she needs what you and I need. However, our society does not acknowledge this, and her very existence is given little or no value. Alice has entered a world where routine genetic screening at twelve weeks gestation is entirely weighted towards birth prevention, rather than birth preparation. Whilst we make our selection and decisions in private, the effect on society is that in the UK, the latest figures (in 2014) tell us that ninety two per cent of Downs Syndrome babies are terminated at the pre-natal screening stage. Even prior to the introduction of screening, children such as Alice would have been severely marginalised and often institutionalised and given little or limited medical care.

I was deeply shocked when Alice was born as an ‘imperfect’ baby. It was not what I had expected. Our first experiences in hospital did little to diffuse this. The paediatrician pulled back her legs, pushed her thumbs deep into Alice’s groin, and promptly announced that we should take Alice home and treat her like any other baby. But she didn’t feel like any other baby, and I was fraught with anxiety that rippled though to every aspect of my relationship with her. My anxieties penetrated my dreams. I dreamt that Alice was swaddled in a blanket and that I had forgotten all about her. I unwrapped the tight bundle that she was nestled in, to feed her, only to discover that she was covered in a white fluid – a fluid of neglect … and yet I was unable to feed her, unable to respond to her basic needs. 

On reflection I saw that Alice was feeling my rejection of her, and that caused me further pain. I saw that the responsibility lay with me; I had to dig deep into my own prejudices and shine a light on them. The result was that as my fear dissolved I fell in love with my daughter. We all did.

So this project is about my relationship with my daughter Alice and her place within her family and society.

This project is for her, for Alice.

Artist’s Bio:

Sian Davey is a photographer with a background in Fine Art and Social Policy. Her work is an investigation of the psychological landscapes of both herself and those around her. Her family and community are central to her work. She is based in the South West of England and combines her photographic work with a professional practice in psychotherapy.

Having recently completed her MA in Photography, she is currently part of the MFA programme at Plymouth University, UK.

Winner of New York Photo Awards (2014), Winner of the Lens Culture Emerging Photographer Award (2014), Critical Mass Finalist (2014), Selected for the Taylor Wessing Portrait Prize (2014) amongst others.