Tabitha Barnard spent her girlhood in the verdant, sprawling hinterlands of rural Maine, surrounded by deep forests and rolling fields and secluded places for wild swimming. Religion was a huge part of her formative years, and she recalls the way her extended family – staunchly Christian on her mother's side – would go to church at least twice a week. "While they were very religious, my parents always really encouraged our imaginations and fantasy games. We were pretty isolated and relied on each other for company often, so a lot of my images deal with this fantasy world we created in the lake and woods of the New England landscape."
The 'we' Barnard is referring to is herself, the oldest child, and her three sisters: Claudia, the middle child, and twins Grace and Sophie, the youngest. "Since there were four of us while we were growing up, we would split into teams a lot," she says. "For a long time, there was a lot of tension between the two separate factions (me and Claudia vs Grace and Sophie). We loved scaring ourselves by pretending there were witches in the woods, and we loved dramatic makeup, hair dye, and dress up. I have a vivid memory of getting permanent red dye on my mum's brand new curtains, and the intense fear that bonded Grace and I as we tried to wash it out."
As the girls got older, Barnard began photographing them compulsively, and it became a shared experience, she says, that grounded them and brought them closer together. "There was this beautiful symbiotic relationship and collaboration between all of us to make the pictures."