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In Shauna Greyerbiehl’s award-winning portrait Grey, her niece looks up from a couch surrounded by mournful ceramic dogs. They are inappropriate playmates for a baby – except perhaps the serious one who meets the camera’s gaze from beneath that striking brow.
Greyerbiehl’s knack for capturing mysterious elements in those close to her have seen her quickly gain recognition during the four years she has practiced photography in earnest.
Her first series, Daily Motion, documented her sister-in-law over the course of a year and was exhibited as part of the Head On Photo Festival in 2010. An image from the series earned her a finalist spot in the Portrait Prize the same year.
Made at her grandmother’s house in Ontario, Canada, Grey became a Head On Portrait Prize co-winner in 2011.
“At the start of Daily Motion I didn’t have a specific direction; I just knew I wanted to take portraits,” she said.
“I wanted to take portraits that were intimate and where the subjects had space to interact with their environment. I was finding my feet with photography so I didn’t have a lot of rules in my head, which was really nice.”
For Greyerbiehl, photographing family is partially a practical matter. An 18-month-old daughter and a career in nursing limits her time for photography projects. Fortunately her family is accessible, close – and interesting.
Greyerbiehl spent the first seven years of her life as part of an extended family of three biological siblings and eight other children cared for by her parents as part of the Children’s Aid Society west of Toronto, Canada.
A fascination with the complexities of relationships and her social surroundings continues to impact on her photographic work.
“I like when an image can transcend – when a second captured opens a still portal to explore the subject’s emotion, or acts as a vestibule to go somewhere else entirely,” she said.
“I am drawn to tension within an image, an untold story which lends itself to daydream.”
Shauna Greyerbiehl is currently working on a documentary project in Orange, New South Wales. These six images are drawn from the past two years of her photography and reference a work in progress.