Taboob! Breastfeeding in Public
Community art project in Bournemouth and Poole
For many years, I had had a photography project about breastfeeding in mind…. It was pretty self-indulgent, artistically, and it just stayed there, in my head, not getting realised out here in the real world. I had constructed quite a romantic image about breastfeeding, seeing it as the way mums can give their children the very best start in life, and loving that bond that is so evident when a mum is nursing her baby. My romantic image was never tested by reality as I am not a dad, and I’ve since come to realise that of course the reality can be very different. The project that I was imagining was a series of fine art portraits of mums feeding, studio-based, black and white, beautifully and subtly lit, very Madonna and child, artistically self-indulgent and a way of marketing my business and perhaps developing another product line to add to bump and new born sessions.
The project came to life very differently.
During a course I have been doing recently, we discussed reality agreements, and how they change over time, and how they can be nudged in different directions. Reality agreements can apply to many and varied things in our world; for example, that the earth was flat was the consensus for many years until scientific evidence began to shift opinion. Another example might be dress lengths and fashions, and what is acceptable behaviour. Drinking and driving used to be perfectly acceptable, yet evidence of the effects and public awareness campaigns have shifted that. Here’s the Wikipedia entryif you want to read more about this.
So, during this discussion, my self-indulgent art project, about me and my business, crashed into my head and was transformed into a series of portraits of mums and their everyday experiences when they are out shopping, meeting friends, going about their everyday life, and needing to feed their baby. The UK has some of the lowest rates of breastfeeding in the world, especially longer term feeding, and there are still way too many stories of mums being told to cover up, to stay indoors, or to take their baby and feed her in the toilet! Seriously? Would you tell anyone else to have their lunch in a loo?
And so this project is now happening! And it is wonderful. I have met some truly lovely people during the course of creating these images, people who care, people who want to contribute to others, and some who have been amazingly open with me, a stranger at that first meeting, about their life journeys. I feel very privileged to have met them and to have photographed them.
How can you get involved?
The first intent of the project was an exhibition in Bournemouth which took place last year, and I intend that the project will continue. The existing pictures I would love to go on and be displayed permanently somewhere, perhaps at Bournemouth Hospital in one of the public spaces. If you have any contacts that could help me make this happen, especially financing it, that would be great – please get in contact. The first exhibition was at Flirt in Bournemouth, one of my fave places in Bournemouth, very friendly, to breast-feeding mums, and to everybody. Here’s the Facebook page where you can join in with the conversation, or comment below.
The project will grow and expand beyond the end of this show. The mums I have worked with have been so keen that breastfeeding becomes the norm in the UK and everywhere, they have encouraged me to take the project forward in a number of ways. One is to do the whole thing all over again this year, and the year after, perhaps with displays in more than one venue in the towns, and staging the event during breastfeeding awareness month. And the concept could also be rolled out in communities all around the country, and indeed beyond.
The other idea is to make these images, and future ones available for publication far more widely by placing them with picture agencies, so they can be used to illustrate news and magazine stories about breastfeeding, and I intend to follow all of these avenues. And maybe I might even resurrect the original idea, the fine art project…
So, in the interim, if you feeding and want to be involved, contact me now, and I would love to meet mums from different ethnic backgrounds, of different ages (especially teenage mums – this age group has a really low rate of breast-feeders), and everybody!