I’ve been reflecting on the themes, methods and methodologies that run through my non-client work of late. Much of my work has focused on identities and I realise transitions.
My Motherhood and Identity: Tattooed Mamas Breaking the Taboos was very clearly aligned with these themes exploring the transition from an individual identity to one as a ‘mother’ and how this skewed the way society perceived individuals in ways that were unexpected to new mothers.
I was also interested in subverting traditional and stereotypical mainstream images of motherhood – a homogenous soft focus perfection of nurturing. This meant my reasons for selecting tattooed mothers in particular was twofold: firstly as a visual representation of individuality literally etched on a woman’s skin; and secondly to elevate images of ‘non-traditional’ mothers, in a time where actually a large percentage of the population now has tattoos as the norm, as yet not reflected in mainstream images. My choice of juxtaposing environmental portraits in my subjects’ own homes in their role as ‘mother’ and how they were seen in society first and foremost, with more formal studio portraits of them alone displaying their very individual tattoos underlined and highlighted the contrast between the transition from individual to ‘mother’.
As I dug deeper into some of my other projects I realised that the concept of transition was also in there too as well as identity. My project on what makes a home a home when its occupants are absent is also about the transition from occupied family space to empty family space.
My project on windows – which started as a simple appreciation of the colours, shapes and abstract forms viewed through the early morning light falling through my condensation obscured bedroom window – morphed into an exploration on thresholds and transitions – the transition from night to day; dark to light; inside to outside – the focus always the window, the barrier or the threshold between the two.
And the two projects I have whirling around waiting to settle into form – again I can see these themes emerging from the miasma.
In The Call of the Sea I hope to explore what it is about the sea that calls ordinary folk – not those dependent on the sea for their livelihood but those who are drawn for artistic or recreational or spiritual purpose. What is it about the transition from land to sea, from sea to sky that has such pull?How does the sea air differ from that inland? How does our emotional state change with proximity to water?
For the coast to coast mini collaborative project that I’m running with photographers around the world, we aim to document our perspective on the sea each month. In January I was forced to think more laterally, and more deeply about the subject due to lockdown restrictions prohibiting an actual trip to the coast. I found myself pondering the water cycle and how the snow that fell in my garden that month had once been water molecules that were part of the sea. It led to an out of the box interpretation Memories of the Sea: a vignette in snow, looking at the water molecules trapped in another environment to the sea from which they once came.
Surrogate, the project that may or may not happen, documenting my friend’s journey as a surrogate mother, is deeply rooted in the concepts and themes of identity. What identity does a surrogate mother have, the woman who grew and birthed an individual to whom she has no biological connection. How does she relate to the baby growing in her womb? How does she relate to the baby she birthed? How does the baby relate to the surrogate’s other children? How do the surrogate’s family relate? How does the non-birth mother relate to the surrogate? What is the non-birth mother’s story and maternal instinct that led her down this road to motherhood? How does the surrogate relate to the non-birth mother? How does that transition feel from growing a baby and birthing him/her to the non-birth mother taking the baby home to start the next phase in their life for all parties?