Dutch photographer Liv Liberg spent a decade and a half photographing her younger sister. Here she tells the AnOther story behind extensive projects
Though it sounds too incredible to be true, Liv Liberg started shooting her recently published book Sister Sister when she was only ten years old. The happy, organic monograph is the culmination of 15 years spent photographing her younger sister Britt – a colossal project that started by accident when two girls simply played dress in their parents’ wardrobe and evolved into a dedicated photographic study of sister bands, female ties. identity and the transition to femininity.
Born to creative parents in Utrecht, the Netherlands, Liberg and her siblings grew up near a farm in the green Dutch countryside and spent their childhood roaming freely in nature. When not outdoors, Liberg and her sister secretly rolled through their parents’ walk-in closet, which was filled with incredible pieces by Japanese designers like Yohji Yamamoto, Comme des Garçons and Kenzo, as well as vintage Chanel and Mugler. .
Liberg would adorn her sister in stunning looks found in this treasure chest, add theatrical splashes of her mother’s make-up and take her portrait in the wild surrounding forest. “These clothes were special and I feel lucky that we were exposed to them from such a young age,” Liberg tells AnOther. “And that we were cheeky enough to steal them for our shots and put them back without my mother finding out.”
After digging these old photographs three years ago, when she was completing a degree in photography at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in The Hague, Liberg felt the need to create something lasting out of them, and returned to photograph her sister again. Nominated for the Prix du livre d’Auteur at this year’s Les Rencontres d’Arles photo festival, the resulting book, Sister Sister, is structured in chapters that follow the months of the year – going through stages of joy, awkwardness and finally a quiet confidence in the book’s final portraits, where Britt is a young woman.
“The years are mixed, but all the pictures are actually taken in those months,” Liberg says. “This made editing easier and less emotionally or visually based. The idea of months is also poetic, I think, and it gives a certain feeling or color to see the images with, but it also does not reveal everything.” Her favorite month, she adds, is April; “It’s the most performative and expressive, and perhaps just the strangest chapter of all.”
Although the emotions behind the images change as Britt gets older, there is a sense of accomplishment and play that is maintained throughout the book. “Britt was a professional ballet dancer, so she loved to perform, move and is still very strong at it,” says Liberg. “We shot a lot together in the last couple of years, which made the project more intimate, serious and intense.”
As the book makes its entry into the world, Liberg hopes so Sister Sister can offer a festive portrait of young femininity, as well as highlight the importance of play in everyday life. “I think it’s important that you’re able to feel free and creative as much as possible – and that nothing strange you do can be weird enough,” she says. “Also feel confident in your body and explore this and your identity in as many ways as possible. Play is so important. “
Her latest project – a personal assignment for Acne Studios, commissioned by the brand’s new creative editor, Isabella Burley – sees grippingly that Liberg dresses her sister and photographs her in the Dutch outdoors again. “In a way, it’s just another sequel to the book,” Liberg says. “Working for brands this way where you do not have to compromise is something great.”
Sister Sister is out now and is available via Art paper editions.