My First Child
I got pregnant with my first child in early 2020. Our 12 week scan took place three days before the announcement of the first lockdown in the UK. I spent the majority of that pregnancy in isolation, with no face to face appointments with any health professionals and barely any contact with friends and family beyond WhatsApp or the occasional video call.
This New Chapter
To make matters worse, I fell at home at around 30 weeks pregnant and broke my left wrist. I spent the best part of 12 hours in hospital - in A&E they reset the break (with the aid of gas and air), avoiding the need for surgery, and confirmed the baby was unharmed. For the rest of the pregnancy, my husband had to cut up my food, shower me and wash my hair with my arm in plaster wrapped in a plastic bag. The irony of being heavily pregnant and having to be cared for like a baby was not lost on me.
Because of Covid restrictions that were still in place, I had to attend most hospital appointments alone. I felt nervous about whether I would be physically able to handle and feed the new baby properly. I knew I had to document this difficult time, with Covid restrictions, my ballooning body and my broken wrist. A snapshot of a time where everyone was waiting for life to start again, but with some unease about what the future looked like, following this long period of uncertainty. My nerves took hold with the addition of this new chapter in my life that was about to begin; motherhood.
With the help of my husband we set up the shot. I knew I wanted to wear the T-shirt he had been made to wear for his stag do, which would help communicate my feelings perfectly. It was important to use my favourite camera, my Canon AE-1 Program. I chose black and white 35mm film because I wanted to strip it back and simplify the scene to enhance the message. Film has always been my favourite way to work and ILFORD HP5+ 400 is my go to film as it is so versatile and the results are always great. As we were shooting film and I was in front of the camera, we started by taking some photos on a camera phone to perfect the shot. I don’t usually work this way but I am not often in front of the camera.
One Photograph A Day
Two weeks after the birth of my son the second lockdown began. This one was longer, and with the three of us isolated in our high rise flat over the winter months. It felt even harder than the first. I now had a newborn baby to care for, and my anxiety intensified. Fortunately, after a couple of months I managed to access some CBT (online of course). With the therapist, we came up with a plan to focus on something external - that wasn’t my baby’s needs - for 5 minutes a day, if possible. I was itching to pick up my camera again so we devised a simple plan to try to take one photograph a day.
No Such Thing As A Baby
My 35mm camera was the obvious choice. Using film meant being in the moment and not getting caught up with the feedback of an immediate image. Having this distance was very freeing, and using black and white film helped to emphasise and simplify scenes and emotions. Some days I didn’t manage, other days I took several. At first, I didn’t get any film developed for a couple of months. The process itself was more important. Without any pressure or expectation.
Confidence To Continue
When I started receiving scans from the lab, some worked and some didn’t, but it gave me more confidence to continue. The themes of isolation and the complex emotions that come with caring for a new baby emerged, and a reminder of how quickly they grow and develop! Having these photographs to look back on feels so special, even though it was sometimes really tough. You can see more of my photo diary project ‘no such thing as a baby’ here (https://www.louisamayman.com/no-such-thing-as-a-baby)
The Mama Gaze
After I began sharing some of my photographs on Instagram I soon discovered the @eyemamaproject account. I was overjoyed to see this new platform, sharing and championing the mama gaze - female identifying photographers who were documenting their experiences of pregnancy and parenting during lockdown. To feature you simply use the hashtag #eyemamaproject. It was exciting to find and connect with this online community.
Eye Mama: Poetic Truths of Home and Motherhood
Last year the Eye Mama platform evolved into an open call, for a book! I was overjoyed to have an image selected to be included. The book ‘Eye Mama: Poetic Truths of Home and Motherhood’ was released in May this year and is a strikingly beautiful and raw collection of work. My photograph was also selected to be exhibited at the Royal Photographic Society in Bristol accompanying one of the book launches.
Brood by Louisa
As a freelancer navigating early motherhood and the struggles that come with balancing the two, I decided to start my own maternity and family photography business - Brood by Louisa - last year. Inspired by my photo diary capturing the beauty in every day moments and a desire to empower and celebrate motherhood, using film is still really important to my practice and is included in the services I offer.
About The Author
Louisa Mayman (b. 1986) is a documentary photographer, videographer and workshop facilitator with an MA in Visual Communication from the Royal College of Art. She seeks to explore themes of vulnerability, family and community in her work. Fascinated by people and pregnancy in particular, she wants to highlight the disadvantages women experience whilst birthing and raising the next generation.
Last year she was commissioned by Factory International to take pregnancy portraits at one of their events supporting their installation First Breath by artist Luke Jerram and was featured and interviewed on their social media channels. This year, one of her photographs has been included in the TuNeues Published book; Eye Mama: Poetic Truths of Home and Motherhood and was selected to be included in the accompanying outdoor exhibition at the Royal Photographic Society in Bristol. In the past twelve months she has started her own maternity and family photography business Brood by Louisa with photographs featured in the Daily Mail, The Metro and New Magazine. She is based in Manchester, UK.