IAMBREASTFEEDING – July 2013 / July 2015
The image of ‘mother and child’ is prominent throughout historical art and religious iconography, both of which are tools to relay values and reflect contemporary society.
My own breastfeeding and motherhood experience led me through an eruption of emotions and thoughts. I was not prepared for that. It led me to question from where my ideas and expectations had come from. I discovered I was not alone, far from it.
I worked closely with the charity organisation, The Breastfeeding Network (BfN). The BfN aims to be an independent source of support and information for breastfeeding women and others. This was to try to produce ethical works that would not damage or undermine breastfeeding.
Visual culture is saturated with constructed ideas of motherhood, in many current western societies it is subject to labelling and aggressive commercial domination. These ideas can become a real expectation for many women when experiencing motherhood; consequently reality has taken a cultural shift. This influence has proved dangerous to some rearing practices that have carried us through our existence in human modernity, notably breastfeeding.
iamBreastfeeding is a participatory project of mothers in Lancashire, England, who were invited to have their portrait taken whilst breastfeeding, in their chosen environment, 57 mothers took part. Mothers chose their own location, attire and if any other persons were present in the portrait. This was accompanied by an informal interview discussing experiences of breastfeeding and motherhood. In contrast to popular representation, mothers take ownership of their communication with the audience through eye contact. But the phenomenon remains; there is a mother, she is nourishing her child.
The work has been exhibited in a central location to where it took place, at The Solaris Centre, Blackpool. It was important to me that the work was accessible to the families and everyday people.
I am producing a book of the works, I believe that both image and text can successfully compliment each other to make a rounded and accessible approach to documenting contemporary breastfeeding.
© 2018 Kim J. Vermeulen