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The spirit of siblinghood in images and interviews.

Sometimes a theme keeps unfolding

By Elizabeth McGuire on Feb 26, 2019 04:52 pm

Without any deliberate planning on my part, the last few sibling sessions I’ve photographed have all shared a similar theme: brothers navigating uncharted territory.

First I met a pair of tween/teen brothers who were learning how an age gap suddenly expands when one brother moves to middle school and the other is still in elementary. Even as their words described this mostly welcome separation, their body language betrayed the closeness of their relationship—they were constantly leaning into each other, linking arms or repeating each other’s jokes.

Next I visited a baby brother who was settling into his family of three older brothers, all under 10 years old. Our session included wrestling, yelling, gentle one-upping, and more wrestling just for good measure. That baby will learn to sleep through anything!

And most recently, I interviewed a trio of adult brothers who were juggling their sibling relationships, their own young families, and the heavy responsibilities of nurturing and honoring their ailing mother.

It always feels like a gift when families let me into their world for this project, but meeting with these adult brothers was an especially sacred experience considering the weight of the moment they were living. Their mother would pass away only a few weeks after we met for the interview. I published their series the same week they were celebrating her life at a memorial that I’m told was bursting with love and music and rich family stories.

The session with them took me back to the months that my own mom was dying, and the many shared moments with my two brothers. It’s been 8 years now, but I clearly remember: the quiet conversations, the dark humor, the regretful arguments born of pain or exhaustion. Above everything, though, there was a sense of safety and fellowship in the experience. There was a feeling that deep in our bones we had soaked up the loss and would carry the lessons and love with us as we learned to move on through the new world without her.

Of all the transitions we navigate as siblings, saying goodbye to a parent is perhaps the most difficult and most divine we can share together. But it’s certainly not the only one. No matter the gravity of the change, anything can feel enormous when you’re living through it, which is why I’m grateful to all these brothers for giving me a peak into their lives and letting me capture them right where they are. Thanks, guys.


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