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Siggie, 15-years-old in front of a Björk poster (1998)

Lisbet Nielsen’s seven-year polaroid project captures the end of childhood

Siggie is a collection of tender photographs, a mother’s eye on her beloved teenage daughter from the age of 12 until she leaves home at 18

Over a period of seven years in the 1990s, fine art photographer Lisbet Nielsen took polaroids of her daughter, Siggie, documenting the transition as she moved through her teens and inexorably towards adulthood. Mostly smiling and obliging, sometimes stormy and indomitable, she’s captured posing and camera-ready as well as in more candid, unguarded moments. The setting, the season, the view from the windows of their Aarhus apartments change and Siggie dips in and out of view of the camera, a little more grown-up every time she appears.

Gathering these portraits together, Nielsen’s new photo book, Siggie, shares a tale about transformation, the passing of time, and the inevitability of change with all its poignant wins and losses. 

“Interiors, the girl, and the views become a story about existence in time and the changes created by time,” writes poet and translator  Malene Engelund in the book’s haunting epilogue. “All the while a mug remains red and steaming, and an easter table, dressed in yellow hope, awaits its guests.” 

“We sense time as a still moment when we are locked into the individual photograph, and we experience its dissolution when we bear wit­ness to the girl’s transformation,” Engelund writes. “Despite the immediacy of the polaroid medium – the moment is developed instantaneously – the collective moments play out in a space that stretches over a seven-year period.“

Siggie is a moving and complex collection of images, hinting obliquely at the exquisite heartache and joy present in this intense relationship between mother and daughter. It’s a heart-wrenching, life-affirming, and devastatingly poignant tribute to youth, motherhood, and growing up. As Siggie’s girlhood gradually gives way to womanhood, we see a child move through adolescence, taking our leave when she herself is happily on the brink of becoming a parent.

Below, Lisbet Nielsen takes us through a selection of her favourite images from Siggie, and shares fragments of intimate memories and recollections connected with the moments in which the photographs were taken.

Captions translated by Malene Engelund. Siggie by Lisbet Nielsen is published by Disko Bay and available here from March 31 2021