I Chose the Word Sister

Mariah Barlow

Mariah and Eden’s faces touching side by side.

‘I chose the Word Sister’ is an excerpt pulled from a school project my younger sister, Eden, had written about me a couple of years ago in school. I had only recently found out about this letter when our Mom sent me a photo of it. Eden had kept this letter tucked away, its contents filled with her perception of me, and of sisterhood.

At 13 years old, she teeters on the edge of a new phase in her life with her childlike innocence slowly but surely fading away into my own memory of her. With our 11 year age gap, we have only ever known our relationship as one with maternal and child tendencies. I take care of her, and she wants to be cared for. Throughout the process of creating this project, I’ve been able to question this dynamic, and how we will both accept a new normal in how we may interact with one another as she enters adolescence.

These images aim to capture Eden, my baby sister, my best friend, at this pivotal point in her life as she comes into her own and enters an era of self discovery. Through exploring these themes of sisterhood, coming of age, and girlhood, I also flip the perspective, allowing Eden to capture me and to share how she feels about us and about our relationship, which is something I so often forget to offer her.

Overall, this series is a time capsule for my Eden, and I can only hope she will always let me into her space as she has so selflessly done for the last several months.

Eden laying on a light pink comforter. She wears a colourful knit sweater and is covered in natural sunlight.
Eden laying against a light pink silk pillowcase. Her eyes are looking off into the distance.
A Polaroid of Eden, from her nose to her chest. She is wearing a white t-shirt with butterflies on it.
Two shadows of hands reach out for one another against a white wall.
Eden sits on the edge of a bathtub, while Mariah stands inside of the bath with the shower head in hand. She is focussed on rinsing Eden’s hair, whilst Eden looks off into the distance.
Mariah and Eden lay next to each other against a light pink silk pillowcase. They share direct eye contact while small smirks play on both of their mouths.
A Polaroid of Mariah sitting on a bed in her childhood room. The lighting is dim, with only a small amount of light coming from the window to her right.
: A black and white image of Eden in the middle of the frame, surrounded by a dark sky. Her hair is blowing in the wind, and she gazes off past the camera lens
Mariah sits on the edge of her bed, while Eden stands beside her. Mariah is holding her 120mm camera while both of them look into their reflection in the mirror in front of them.
5 photobooth strips lay next to one another on a white background. From left to right, there are strips of just Mariah, just Eden, both Mariah and Eden, just Mariah and then just Eden.
5 photobooth strips lay next to one another on a white background. From left to right, there are strips of just Mariah, just Eden, both Mariah and Eden, just Mariah and then just Eden.
Mariah and Eden’s shadow against the snow covered ground. The shadows are holding hands.
Eden laughing with her teeth showing. She is wearing her winter jacket with a fur hood pulled up. There are waves from Lake Ontario in the background.
Eden’s shadow is very blurred against the background of ocean waves. Her figure is slightly distorted and becomes almost see through.
Mariah Barlow

Mariah Barlow

Mariah (she/her) is a visual artist currently based in Toronto, Ontario. She is in her final year of the Photography Studies (BFA) program at Toronto Metropolitan University, and will be graduating with a Minor in Communication Design. Mariah’s mediums of interest centre around analogue processes, primarily 35mm and 120mm photography. In addition to her photography projects, Mariah has also branched out into super 8 videography, which has become a main area of interest in her practice. The majority of her work is rooted within personal themes and subject matter, with family members and important people being at the core of many of her projects. She aims to create soft, intimate portraiture that is often in conjunction with text to give the viewer a closer look into her life and the people within it.