Breastfeeding Series | Gelatin Silver Prints, Large Format Archival Digital Prints | 1999 - 2002
Breastfeeding was one of the most powerful, loving experiences of my life as a mother. My pregnancy ended, as did my Pregnancy Photo Series, when I gave birth to my son. I then began the Breastfeeding Series of black and white photography when my baby was 6 days old.
Bringing the baby to my studio, setting up lights, and using my Nikon F camera and black and white film was set with much intent. In fact, many of the photos were planned during sleepless days and nights and through much pain due to some complications of childbirth.
The first photo of the series showed a stark honesty of the exhaustion a mother carries in her body from labor. The nursing baby became a tiny screen to my naked body, as I hid the ‘pouch' left from childbirth behind his vulnerable body. The natural stretching of the skin, which would return to normal, became something to hide in these first few days.
Living in the Boston area, with the cultural remnants of a Puritanical society, brought up many issues. Family members asked me when I was going to wean my son, onlookers glared as I discreetly breast fed my son under a blanket. And then there were the elements of breastfeeding: pumps, undergarments, pads, the very position of the baby while breastfeeding and the especially engorged breast that becomes the dominant “one” in feeding the baby.
In my photos, I utilized the iconography of Madonna/Child, the cow and engorged breasts as ancient fertility symbols and the pap boat representing endless nurturing. I questioned the visuals of breastfeeding bras and pumps. Did S & M ready-to-wear bras come before or after the breastfeeding bra? Did penile pumps come after Medula’s breast pumps? The Russian propaganda posters of the 1920s-1940s depict Mother Russia’s power to feed and protect: is not a lactating mother a lioness in her own right?
In my Breastfeeding series, I explored this special time period in my life; all of the photos are of my baby and me. Breastfeeding, I remember fondly as a time to connect, nourish and nurture. In the photos with my son, I capture this brief period of his life where he was dependent on me as his food source. And in the series, I freely and unabashedly explored what was considered at the time (and maybe today too) a bit taboo in the U.S.: lactating breasts as sensual, sexual, powerful and beautiful.