The Garden, Siân Davey's photography

Siân Davey The Garden

Alice, 2022

Family, 2021

Leaving the Garden, 2022

Friends, 2022

Isobel, 2021

Lila, 2022

Lilly, 2022

Lovers, 2021

Mother and Child, 2022

Roland in the Flowers, 2022

Artist's statement

'"There are no secrets in this house, do you hear? Where there’s a secret,’ she says, ‘there’s shame, and shame is something we can do without.'" Foster, by Claire Keegan.

“Why don’t we fill our back garden with wildflowers and bees, and the people we meet over the garden wall — we’ll invite them in to be photographed by you?” This is what my son Luke announced in the kitchen, midwinter 2021, our back garden abandoned for at least ten years. I was sitting at the table, navigating a family deep in crisis.
What came next was a pilgrimage: an ongoing act to cultivate a space grounded in love, a reverential offering to humanity. This is what became The Garden.
We rent our family home on the Dartington Hall estate — a land of ecology, spirituality, and social justice. Its gentle hills, its deep river have drawn artists, philosophers, and activists since the early twentieth century. The Garden embodies the values inspired by this spirit. It revealed to me that we have everything we need to be creative close to home. A plaque on the wall of Dartington Hall by Rabindranath Tagore, the Bengali poet and writer, reads: “Here rolls the sea, and even here lies the other shore, waiting to be reached. Yes, here is the everlasting present — not distant, not anywhere else.”
The project began at a time of deep uncertainty and anxiety, when people were confined to home, confronted with themselves and turning to nature for refuge. This paradigm shift in consciousness brought about profound change on a personal level. People reflected on who they were and who they had become. Even during a time of collective crisis, perpetual economic growth, the degradation of natural resources, and human struggle, The Garden reminds us that nature cannot help but be beautiful. 

After Luke’s announcement, we worked intensively to clear our long-neglected garden. We researched native flowers, soil, and biodiversity. We sourced organic local seeds and sowed under the moon cycles.
We offered prayers. We invited the pollinators and nature spirits. Luke and I obsessively shared our dreams, insights, visions. We called in our ancestors to strengthen our vision. We collected stories from people we met over the garden wall, which came to feel like an intimate, confessional space.
We then watched the flowers silently appearing from every corner: mullein, meadowsweet, wild carrot, sunflowers, and thousands of poppies and cornflowers. We built structures for gourds, tromboncinos, and sweet peas to clamber over.
As the flowers opened, they called in the community — mothers and daughters, grandparents, the lonely, the marginalised, teenagers, new lovers, the heartbroken, those who had concealed a lifetime of shame. They were enfolded into The Garden, creating and partaking in the story equally.
As The Garden evolved, it became an expression of joy, interconnectedness, yearning, sexuality, and defiance. It became a metaphor for the human heart. The Garden shows us that we are more than our suffering, we are not separate from nature nor from one another — we are all interconnected just by being human.
Everyone has a place in our garden. I am The Garden. Those who enter are The Garden. Without distinction, without separation.

About the photographer


Brighton, United Kingdom, 1964



Based in

Devon, United Kingdom

About Siân Davey

Davey is a photographer with a background in fine art and social policy, who worked for fifteen years as a humanist Buddhist psychotherapist. 

After visiting the Louise Bourgeois retrospective at Tate Modern, London, in 2007, she was inspired to translate her personal history, including a childhood of poverty and neglect, into creative practice. In 2011, she moved into photography. 

In 2012, Davey completed an MA in Photography at the University of Plymouth and an MFA the following year.

Her work has been exhibited internationally in both solo and group shows, including at Aperture, New York (2018); Deichtorhallen, Hamburg (2021); Richard Saltoun Gallery, London (2021); and Images Vevey, Switzerland (2022). 

Davey’s work is held by collections including the Science Museum, London; the Victoria and Albert Museum, London; Centre national des arts plastiques, Paris; and the Martin Parr Foundation, Bristol, United Kingdom. 

She has won awards including the Arnold Newman Award for New Directions in Photographic Portraiture, New York (2016), and the Prix Virginia, Paris (2016). Her work was selected in three consecutive years, from 2015 to 2017, for the Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery, London.

Davey’s book Looking for Alice, chronicling the early years of her daughter born with Down's syndrome, was shortlisted for the Paris Photo–Aperture Foundation PhotoBook Awards 2016 and for the Kraszna-Krausz Foundation 2017 Book Awards. In 2018, she published her second book, Martha, which follows another of her four children.