Pin It
Photography the Ritsch Sisters

These photos capture the intimate bond of sisterhood

Sibling photographers Anna and Maria Ritsch live on different sides of the world, but their joint artistic project shows us what it feels like to be both together and apart

When you think of the word ‘collaboration’, what do you see? Two painters, working on the same canvas? A cluster of ateliers, pinning fabric on a model? Maybe even a group of musicians, improvising during a session in the studio? In most instances, you’ll imagine two or more people, together. But for photographer sisters Anna and Maria Ritsch, collaboration is something that happens four thousand miles apart.

Although Anna and Maria have their own separate practices, in early 2020 they decided to start the ‘ritschsisters’ collaboration, with Anna living in New York City and Maria based in Vienna, Austria. In 2021 they released The Act of Sitting, a visual exploration of individuals sitting in their homes, itself a reaction to the stasis of the COVID pandemic. Now, they return with Together Apart  (published by Pool), a tender meditation on the transcendent, cross-Atlantic bond of sisterhood. 

In the volume, striking pictures of body parts and wet skin are interspersed with quotidian images of garden chairs and cypress trees, forcing the viewers to forge connections between the differing images. The work is presented in two separate book blocks inside one single edition, and rather than focusing on a specific subject, allows the disparate images to form a dialogue all of their own. It’s a work that charts the emotional heft of both togetherness and separation, proving that physical proximity is not a prerequisite for creative collaboration.

In a conversation over email, we chat to the sisters about their mode of visual storytelling, tender portrayal of femininity, and why individual authorship was left from the final draft.

Please could you begin by telling us about what initially inspired you both to create Together Apart?

The Ritsch Sisters: The project Together Apart came about very naturally and out of the necessity to find a form of methodology and practice, a common language for our work together while living on separate continents, with Maria living in Vienna and Anna in New York City. A work we can always go back to and pull from – a sort of foundation.

It allows for openness and exploration of our individual experiences and to understand where we are in our lives at this particular moment, what we see and why for example certain motifs reappear in slightly different ways throughout our work.

Can you tell me more about why you decided to present the edition in two separate book blocks?

The Ritsch Sisters: When working on the book we were looking for a way to present this idea of together apart’, of being two individual beings yet connected to form a united vision. We felt that creating these two separate book blocks within one book helped transform this concept into physical form. It also represents for us this idea of dialogue and allows us to be playful yet distinct with our visual storytelling. 

In what ways did living in separate cities in different countries inform the themes of the project?

The Ritsch Sisters: Living in separate cities in different countries definitely opens us up to new perspectives, ways of seeing and living, thinking, experiencing and enriches our dialogue.  It has been instrumental in shaping the themes of exploration, individuality and the search for our own common language and lives.

“The decision that individual authorship takes a backseat was very important to us. In our artistic practice, we focus on the essence of the work as a collective” – The Ritsch Sisters

I’ve noticed in the book you don’t specify which sister created which image. Was this an intentional omission, and what effect was it intended to produce?

The Ritsch Sisters: The decision that individual authorship takes a backseat was very important to us. In our artistic practice, we focus on the essence of the work as a collective. It's about the interconnectedness of our ideas, the exploration of our visual world together, and the profound connection we share as sisters.

What kinds of emotional states were you expecting to draw from viewers of the book?

The Ritsch Sisters: Our main aspiration with Together Apart was to ignite a sense of curiosity and playfulness in the audience. We don’t want to tell people what to think or present definitive meanings with our work. We’d like to challenge the viewer to be present and actively participate in exploring the works by creating their own contextual understanding.

If anything, what do you think people are most likely to misinterpret about this body of work?

The Ritsch Sisters: People will always interpret works how they want to. Everyone will see something different in it and connect it to their own experiences and internalised stories, and we are okay with that.

What would you say is the totemic image of the series in general?

The Ritsch Sisters: For this project we tried to work very intuitively and collect a large archive of images to choose from and pair them together,  creating new dialogues that over time are allowed to change. We do see recurring motifs and themes in our project, though the overall idea of Together Apart is that these can change and evolve over time into new visual explorations. Therefore there intentionally isn’t one particular image that represents the project as a whole.

The images capture quite a tender portrait of girlhood and femininity – was this something you intentionally wanted to express?

The Ritsch Sisters: This happened quite naturally as it is part of our story and our lives. However it is important to us to actively explore and discuss how to portray women and men, as well as how society perceives and represents femininity and masculinity, and we are interested in the nuances of this complex system and the influence of photography within this topic. There is immense beauty and power in being able to express ourselves freely without judgement.

Together Apart by the Ritsch Sisters is published by Pool and is available now.

Join Dazed Club and be part of our world! You get exclusive access to events, parties, festivals and our editors, as well as a free subscription to Dazed for a year. Join for £5/month today.