(un)hidden - PhMuseum

(un)hidden

Amber Lee Williams

2017 - Ongoing

St. Catharines, Ontario, Canada

My intention for this work was to explore the idea of a contemporary hidden mother, with other themes of motherhood, relationships between family members, and the loss that we all face in the inevitable passing of time. I was pregnant when the project began in September 2017, and gave birth to my second daughter at the end of January 2018. My studio processes involved 35mm black and white film, and experimental photographic techniques with Polaroid emulsion lifts and lumen printing.

When I first encountered Victorian era photographs of hidden mothers, I formed an emotional connection with the personal and shared symbolism I felt they embodied. Among these were ideas of conflicting identities in relation to motherhood, inward or societal pressures to hide, juxtaposition of absence and presence, and a feeling of partialness.

The Polaroid emulsion lifts began with a bath, my pregnant body partially submerged in the water. The areas of me that had changed because of my child, my breasts and belly, were above the water, and the rest of me under the water, hidden.

I worked with other mothers, documenting their bodies with Polaroid film, labouring over the emulsion lifts to find different ways to create meaning and relate them to the idea of a hidden mother. I photographed the emulsion lifts while they were in their fluid and very temporary state, and then transferred them to jars to be photographed again.

The Jar photographs, titled Preserves, are about nourishment and time. The act of canning food to feed your family, but also expressing the conflicting emotions as a mother watches her child grow, wanting to stay in every passing moment, while looking forward to each new moment.

The Lumen prints are representation of my postpartum body. The placenta – literally a part of my body, an organ that grew alongside my child. The breast milk on Baby's breath, the time I spend feeding my child, and the Padsicles, a reminder of time spent labouring, and the work of delivering a child.

The contact sheet is an earlier work from the beginning of my investigation of hidden mother photographs that I revisited. The staged shoot included my eldest daughter and myself as models, with a set and clothing that mimic Victorian style photographs. Originally created for the purpose of individual photographs, upon returning to the work I saw the contact sheet as an interesting piece itself. The experience as a metaphor for time and how each moment feels very individual while we are in it, but as time passes and we look back, the moments are grouped together and viewed more collectively.

This body of work is in some ways a documentation of my experience as a mother, and an exploration of the individual and shared themes of motherhood in general. While the work was created from a personal point of view, I connect it to the timelessness of motherhood and the universal truth: we are all born.

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  • Change, 2018,
    Archival pigment print (Polaroid emulsion lift)

  • Over the Moon,
    2018,
    Archival pigment print (Polaroid emulsion lift)

  • Over the Shoulder,
    2018,
    Archival pigment print (Polaroid emulsion lift)

  • Partially Submerged #1,
    2018,
    Archival pigment print (Polaroid emulsion lift)

  • Partially Submerged #2,
    2018,
    Archival pigment print (Polaroid emulsion lift)

  • Upper Body Lower Body,
    2018,
    Archival pigment print (Polaroid emulsion lift)

  • Preserve #1,
    2018,
    Archival pigment print (Polaroid emulsion lift)

  • Preserve #16,
    2018,
    Archival pigment print (Polaroid emulsion lift)

  • Preserve #17,
    2018,
    Archival pigment print (Polaroid emulsion lift)

  • Preserve #20,
    2018,
    Archival pigment print (Polaroid emulsion lift)

  • Preserve #21,
    2018,
    Archival pigment print (Polaroid emulsion lift)

  • Breast Milk on Baby's Breath, #1,
    2018
    Archival pigment print (Lumen Print)

  • Breast Milk on Baby's Breath, #2,
    2018
    Archival pigment print (Lumen Print)

  • Padsicle #1,
    2018,
    Archival pigment print (Lumen Print)

  • Padsicle #2,
    2018,
    Archival pigment print (Lumen Print)

  • Padsicle #3,
    2018,
    Archival pigment print (Lumen Print)

  • Birth Day Cake #1,
    2018,
    Archival pigment print (Lumen Print)

  • Hidden Mother Contact Sheet,
    2018,
    Archival pigment print (silver gelatin print)


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