In my family, there are three of us, each born four years apart: Jamila, Inti, Dania. We’ve acted as witnesses to one another’s lives, from early childhood to adolescence to, now, adulthood.

As the eldest, I’ve had the longest opportunity to observe all the ways our personalities have changed as childhood qualities are shed and new identities emerge. We are all very much alike at times — in our anxieties, in our responses to stress — but we are different people, and our relationships are not always equal. Inti and Dania, now twenty and sixteen, have a closer level of understanding: their bond is one that I admire, though I struggle to feel part of it. Recently, I’ve used my photography to examine our relationships and our upbringing. I want to piece together the causes and effects that have shaped who we are as individuals and as sisters.

Sisters whispering secrets

There’s an intimacy to sisterhood, one you can’t find elsewhere. Since the three of us were very young, we’ve fought—it’s what siblings do, and it never really ends. I had one such fallout with Inti last March, and the two of us stopped speaking entirely. It started out of those typical bad habits common between sisters: one takes the other’s belongings without asking, lies when confronted. But conflicts among family are an accumulation, and this problem that at first seemed so small just snowballed. Ultimately, we shunned each other for eleven months—a feat, considering we live together. It was only this past February, toward the start of the pandemic, that we finally made amends. The reconnection, when it came, was instant. I could tell how much she’d been holding back by the amount of energy she exuded while sharing almost a year’s worth of stories.

Sisters interrupted mid-conversation
My sisters and I still live under the same roof in Toronto, but it’s just a matter of time until I move away and build a life of my own. The kitchen will no longer be a place of reunion, where we meet to talk about our days, listen to music, or do our homework. I will miss my sisters’ energy, feeling their presence as soon as I come through the door. But sisterhood is inseparable. Things will change; it’s inevitable. Still, we will always find one another.

Dania getting her hair styled; Inti with a #freeIntifromthishell sticker on her forehead
Jamila Noritz Reyes