Blood Ties

My brother and I, much like every other sibling had a lot of conflicts growing up and were never close because he went abroad to study. We had our differences, in opinion, personalities, and as much as we were siblings, we were strangers. It was not until four years ago, when he contracted cancer whilst in medical school that the dynamics of our relationship started to change. Those 12 hours of his operation and the months following after for his recuperation were one of the most grueling, toughest times, as I worried for his health, future and how the surgery would affect his career as a doctor.

Today, the scars that he bore from the surgery are a reminder of our tested religious faith as we learnt to support each other through the trying times.

This series depicts masculinity juxtaposed against the vulnerability of my older brother as I explore who he is through images of his body. The bold nudity aims to strip bare the dynamics at play in opposite gender sibling relations, which society struggles with accepting close older brother-younger sister relationship. For centuries, the masculine male nude has been a dynamic icon of phallic power, and is associated with God, Greek mythology of creation and anatomical studies.

Even as I document and explore his body, I find myself regaining inner healing and peace as I come face to face with the scars that make him who he is today. The image of his hands that used to inflict harm and show authority are now the same pair of hands that saves lives.

Blood is thicker than water. Much like the symbolic representation of the genetic thread of life – DNA, that makes us who are, each thread on the fabric in which is printed, interweaves to make up the canvas. My brother and I ­are bound together not just by shared experiences, but also through blood relations.

The medium of print on fabric represents the passage of time, and how delicate life is. Much like the evidence of time on the human skin, fabric documents each fold and wrinkle. Each imperfection on the canvas bears testament to the tribulations of life.

When one cuts or tears the fabric, it cannot be fully restored to its original state. Even when sewn back together, it is never a complete canvas. In the same way, having gone under the knife, my brother’s scars are permanent, yet at the same time they complete him as an individual.

They tell a story.

The mending of the fabric against its destruction is a representation of the mending of our sibling relationship. The metaphorical stripping of societal prohibitions in the process of creating this photo series has brought us even closer, made us more vulnerable and our relationship is always in the process of healing and reconciliation. I am truly grateful for this shared experience.