Well its that time again.. hand in time! Felt pretty good to have been able to produce a piece of work like this, I really enjoyed making a book and putting the whole thing together. Lets just say its not as easy as it looks!
Having found it quite hard to find photography that involves documenting around pregnancy and birth i stumbled across the work of Anastasia’s.
The following information is about the body of work taken from her website:
The series of images from ‘The National Womb’ are in connection with the “birth encouragement program” introduced in 2008, it distributes cash payments to newlyweds for each baby born, this is to repoulate the region after the effects the 1991-1994 had left.
The conflict started when the Soviet Union collapsed. Nagorno Karabakh’s ethnic Armenians went to war with Azerbaijan, backed by neighboring Armenia. The war left 65,000 ethnic Armenians and a further 40,000 ethnic Azeris displaced. The Muslim Azeri population never returned, and neither did many of the Armenians who had fled. While a ceasefire was declared in 1994, there has been no peace settlement yet between Armenia and Azerbaijan.
On the 2nd of September this year, Nagorno Karabakh celebrated 20 years of independence, yet remains unrecognized by the international community. Life is not easy in the republic. There is high unemployment, low salaries, few opportunities and the young continue to leave in search of better futures abroad.
Since its introduction 4 years ago, the “birth encouragement program” is credited for an increased birthrate of 25.5% from 2145 recorded births in 2007 to 2694 in 2010. The program is administered by the Department of Social Security which oversees the payments to married couples of approximately €575 (300,000 ad) at their wedding. They are paid €190 (100,000 ad) for the first baby born, €380 (200,000 ad) for the second, €950 (500,000 ad) for the third and €1350 (700,000 ad) for a fourth. Families with 6 children under the age of 18 are given a house.
Nagorno Karabakhs baby boom was also sparked in 2008 by a mass wedding on the 16th October that was held for 674 couples. The event was funded by private donations from several wealthy Armenian diaspora businessmen including Levon Hairapetian and Ruben Vardanian and couples who participated receive privately funded higher payments of €1400 ($2000) for the mass wedding, €1400 ($2000) for the first child, €3500 ($5000) for the second and increasing amounts up to €70,000 ($100,000) for the seventh. Figures on the 1st July 2011 show that a total of 693 babies had been born to these mass wedding couples so far. These payments are quite substantial in a region where the average monthly salary is €35 ($50).
Family life in Nagorno Kharabak is deeply traditional and conservative. When women marry they are expected to live with the husbands family and stay at home to raise children and care for their mother and father-in-law. Even within the home men and women live parallel but separate lives. A mans role is to provide for the family financially and fathers play only a small part in child rearing. So, what of the young women who are being paid to increase their nations population, the communities of expectant and young mothers and their daily struggles as women in this unrecognized republic??
What I found most interesting about Anastasia’s work was her ability to really be just a ‘fly on the wall’ when she takes her photographs, they have a documentary aspect to them whilst being very specific in what she wants to show. I think she does an excellent job in reflecting on the back story to her body of work. The images are predominantly focussing on the women, there is a lack of men within the frame, this highlights their absence and lack of involvement with the birth. The photograph above of the women in the hospital bed, all in the same room with their children could suggest their solitude together as women, they have had the same experience of birth and are lacking support from their partner. The fact that they are all in the same room and not in confined separate areas also highlights the high volume of women giving birth. What also particularly stands out to me in the image of the lady giving birth is that she has been careful with her cropping and selectivity of what she is showing to the viewer, it is enough for us to understand what is going on but not enough to be too graphic.
I suggest anyone interested to have a further look into her other projects!
Alongside this blog I also have a Behance online portfolio which I have posted a few projects up on. If anyone’s interested in having a look here’s the link to my profile..
Just recently posted my project in progress about Jo and her pregnancy.
Hope you enjoy!
Wednesday 5th February
I was lucky enough to accompany Jo to one of her visits to the midwife at her local doctor surgery which was really nice to see all the check ups and procedures that are taken (measuring the baby bump, listening to heartbeat, general checks). During the visit I just snapped away as the midwife was doing her checks etc, I wasn’t allowed to include the midwife’s face in the photo which actually worked out well because the visit and my project is all about Jo, so the photos are thoroughly focussed on her. I wanted to experiment with using different angles when taking the photos, predominantly focussing on Jo and her beautiful baby bump. I’m really chuffed that Jo allowed me to come with her, afterwards I felt like i’d been able to document something even more personal to her which is going to be great to include in my final piece.
Here’s a contact sheet of images from the day:
Monday 27th January
So a day after my first meet with Jo at her baby shower we planned to meet for lunch to be able to properly talk about the project and to get to know one another. We met in a small cafe, it was a really nice atmosphere and the food was great! Jo was supposed to be working that day at her office, but her colleagues had the flu and warned her not to come in – so she was resorting to carry on her work from home after our meet up. What had already struck me about Jo is that she’s a determined woman and passionate about her career, despite being heavily pregnant she is still adamant to work up to her due date – I think this is brilliant that she still chooses to have her own independence.
We chatted for over an hour to which we realised our parking was about to run out, so she then invited me back to her nan’s house where she would be working on her laptop which was just around the corner. This was a great chance for me to chat with a her nan and granddad who are very excited for the arrival of the newborn. I started to take photographs of Jo at the house, she was dressed in her clothes for work still and was working on her laptop for part of the time I was there which was a good chance for me to take photos of her in that atmosphere.
One of the nicest things about this visit was when we was sat down having a cup of tea and some biscuits the baby started to kick, in which Jo immediately put her hand on her stomach to feel the baby as though to comfort her, I had captured this moment with my camera which was very beautiful to see.
Although the aim of my project is to document a pregnancy (having not known Jo beforehand), I feel that getting to know Jo, and documenting her personal experience is also allowing us to form a small friendship along the way.
Here’s a bit of the contact sheet of photogrpahs from the day;
Following the midwife visit with Jo I felt it would be a good opportunity to take photos of her in her own house and to hear a bit more about her own experience of pregnancy. I decided to record the questions that I asked her so that I could use the sound for my video.
Some of the questions were:
– What has been the most memorable thing about your pregnancy so far and why?
– Have you got any baby names ready?
– Is there anything you want your achieve when she is older?
– Is there anything you think is going to majorly change for you after the birth?
The photos I took of Jo in her house range from her showing me the baby’s room to reflecting on her self in the mirror.
Okay so I did like my old idea, but for some reason it just wasn’t doing it enough for me. Having talked to my mum about her experiences of being a nurse, midwife and health visitor I had a brainstorm for a new idea! I wanted to photograph a pregnancy (a few weeks before the birth), and then weeks after the newborn baby had arrived using the linear structure.
This was all good and well talking to my mum about how exciting this would be until BAM I realised that I didn’t know anyone pregnant at all.
I started to really think about this idea, being really keen on persisting with this idea determined my next moves… Facebook is a great way to get your words across so I decided to post on a few groups about my project to hopefully get a response. This is where my luck came in, a really friendly lady called Jo got in touch with me and said she was interested to be in my project, we exchanged conversation over facebook and agreed that our first meet could be at her Baby Shower on Sunday 26th January. This was great news, I was so excited that i’d found someone who was interested, the only problem being that it would mean i’d have to travel home (1 hour away) each time to photograph Jo, but that didn’t matter at all to me because she was so lovely! I just wanted to get on with this project after feeling so lost with it.