The Difficult Child

When my sister was born I knew we would never have a typical sisterly relationship, what with an eighteen-year difference and all. 

To bridge the long story of her life so far, I've always walked a tightrope between the mother-sister dichotomy; all at once empathizer, teacher, and enforcer. Now at a ripe five years of age, she's grown accustomed to my permanent presence at home in my first year post-graduate: a position I adamantly never wanted to fall back into but have embraced for better and worse.

But the thing is, Penelope is a "difficult child".

While financial burdens have kept me tethered to home, so has an unexpected need for a third adult in my sister's life. She's defiant, ferociously emotional, dependent upon routine and constant affirmation, and developmentally slow for her age. When the patience of one adult wears too thin, another must be reeled in to avoid breakdowns on all fronts, and my added presence has become a necessity for the upbringing of a child who is, for lack of  any definitive or diagnosable label, "difficult".

For the past year I've observed her trials and changes, seeing the beautiful, outrageously tenacious, strong-willed, force of a girl grow taller and ever more powerful in every way imaginable. All the while, I've hesitated to photograph her out of mostly unknown or intangible fears and doubts. Children are incredible because of their universal newness. They are both sponges and mirrors, reflecting every behavior and idea and belief they absorb back into the world as they are shaped constantly by their tiny environment. And yet a camera is so powerful: it shapes memory to the eye of the one who hold the lens. There is no objective photography- I don't believe it's possible. The image is simply a reflection of what the photographer sees, and pointing that at a child is like two mirrors facing each other down infinitely.