Right, so I'd like to start by asking you to tell us about how you became a photographer?
I never took a took a gap year or a break; I went straight from school to a three year photographic diploma and then straight into full time photography. It’s been hard but it’s been a dream and I consider myself very lucky. I love photography for its bold and clear portrayal of its subject matter. It’s still arty but in a sleek, clean way. How I literally became a photographer? I rolled out of bed one morning in early January after I had matriculated and my Dad called me saying he’d found this amazing diploma course but that it started that day. I think I arrived 10min late for the opening assembly and enrolled afterwards (Ruth Prowse School of Art in Woodstock).
What does your home life look like?
I live in a beautiful old Victorian cottage in Woodstock, which is just 5 min out of the CBD of Cape Town. It is currently being lovingly renovated. My boyfriend and I have a super peaceful home attitude with four totally over-loved cats. I've always been a creative person so there is creative space in the house as I’m often busy on multiple projects at the same time. I love our coffee machine, the beautiful art we have hanging on all our walls and the soft morning light that comes into our all-white bedroom first thing in the morning.
I see your work deals with how the female is represented, with a feminist slant - would you like to say a few words about how a breastfeeding photo project ties in with, for instance, a more ironic project in which you comment on sexual objectification?
I’m not a big fan of the term feminist, ironic I know. (I don’t mind if your using it though obviously!) I really enjoy looking at the differences, strengths and weaknesses between the masculine and feminine. My work portrays the experience and perspective I have as a woman.
I try to encompass all elements which make up our identities as women. That means from the sexual body to the maternal body and more. So you’ll find some very opposing projects in my portfolio, for example, from nudes (and working with Playboy- which was fascinating as you’re looking at women’s bodies from the perspective of the male-gaze) to the breastfeeding book I’ve recently published.
What gave you the idea to do this project? Was it a personal breastfeeding experience (I think it was your cousins who were breastfeeding, but I'd like to ask the question in the magazine anyway and let people have the opportunity to read your answer).
It surprises people that I don’t have children and have never breastfed! Why do such a large scale project on a subject you have no personal experience in right? What interested me enough to work (for three years) on this book was my interest in how women’s bodies are seen by society: media, men, history and themselves. Breastfeeding has been a hot topic for the last few years. For me it is the fascinating element of the cross over from maternal to sexual that the breasts undertake. It was this element which sparked the idea for the book Breastfeeding 101. The breast plays two roles and I think society finds this confusing: it makes breastfeeding in public and extended breastfeeding (anywhere past 6 months) a very contentious issues for many. Its really a fascinating subject to look into if you're interested in gender issues.
Was the decision to photograph the women standing up a conscious one and what was the rationale behind it? Are they all standing?
I wanted the mothers to stand in their portraits, yes. It’s a strong statement: a confident statement in visual communication. This is the same reason I asked the moms to look directly into the camera for their portraits: you, the viewer, are forced to interact or make eye contact with them. It’s personal. It also plays on the binary of public/private which is very relevant in breastfeeding.
Note: Logistically there were some mothers who were tandem feeding and it was impossible for them to hold both children and stand so these Mama’s are sitting in their portraits.
Your women come from a range of religions, races, and possibly socioeconomic circumstances. Yet they all stood bare-breasted for a session with you. Do they all share a conviction about breastfeeding?
They all share strong feelings about their experiences breast feeding (not all good mind you) and felt it would be valuable to share their knowledge in creating this book by sharing their stories and having their portrait taken as a representation. In terms of the “bare-breasted” elements involved in the shoot: I asked each mother to feed her baby in a way which made her feel comfortable. You can tell by looking through the images that each woman feels differently about how her body is seen by the camera/viewer.
What has reaction to the book been like?
Powerful! I’ve been most surprised by how emotionally women have responded to it. For me it started as a portraiture series but it grew and evolved and now it’s become a book which women really appreciate and value. I think it’s the very personal shared perspectives of each individual which resonate with the reader. When people speak to me about the project they always want to tell me their own story as well- that goes for mothers and fathers! I think its healing to talk about times that may have been difficult, and so, reading many different portrayals of the same topic is therapeutic and informative.
Where can we buy the book and how much does it cost?
Directly from me is best and cheapest at R350.00 (firstname.lastname@example.org) and Instagram: @_breastfeeding_101
I deliver in Cape Town or courier across South Africa or internationally. Alternatively you can find the book stocked at Exclusive Books or Wordsworth stores nationwide for R385.00 and at Loot and Takealot.