08 June 2020

The Dynamics of the Mother-Daughter Relationship

08 June 2020 - Written by PhMuseum

American artist Elizabeth Hibbard focuses on the subjects of the female body, her relationship with her mother, and the human role within the natural environment, all in order to examine desires and fears concerning the reproduction of our species.

I make work in order to communicate that which is eternally present, painful, and contradictory about being female-bodied, and self-reflexively, how this particular mode of embodiment and subjectivity is intrinsic to the photographic process itself. My most recently completed project is titled Swallow the Tail, culling from a Scottish proverb I heard often growing up from my mother, who heard it from her mother, and so on: “If you swallowed the cow, don’t choke on the tail”; The project describes liminal space between self and (m)other, physical and psychological, intimacy and isolation, consumption and expulsion, desire and revulsion. I am concerned with how the construct of femininity is unreflectively inscribed, not just socially, but from within the space of the family structure — especially as it is mediated within the dynamics of the mother-daughter relationship, as well as the integral role of the lenticular gaze in that process of inscription.

By examining the hidden recesses of the body and subconscious mind, I hope to find some stone yet unturned for guidance moving forward. Inextricable are my anxieties about reproduction and motherhood, and the confines of my body in the current political and environmental climate. As I approach my thirties, I have been forced to grapple with my own ambivalence, desire, and fear around having children in the context of both my relationship to my mother and the Anthropocene. Coming of age in an era marked by the most significant and rapid technological change we have ever known as a species and adding in the extreme uncertainty of ecological stability in scientific predictions for the next generation, I am forced to additionally weigh the ethics of reproduction in an era that is consciously blind to the likely disasters that lie ahead. My generation has been raised in the shadow of impending doom, and how to proceed gracefully in an uncertain world is a now ever more pressing collective question than ever before.

Words and Pictures by Elizabeth Hibbard.


Elizabeth Hibbard is an artist from Santa Cruz, CA. She graduated in 2020 with a MFA from the Yale School of Art in Photography. Her work deals with themes related to family, gender performance, psychoanalysis, the body, intersubjectivity, and how the act of photography can conceptually mirror these structures. Find her on PHmuseum and Instagram.


This feature is part of Story of the Week, a selection of relevant projects from our community handpicked by the PHmuseum curators.

Selected by


Reading time

3 minutes

Support PhMuseum Journalism

Since 2012 PhMuseum's articles have always been free and without ads. Every year we work to keep you informed and invite you to discover the work of hundreds of photographers. If you enjoy reading us, this can be a nice way to give back and support our independent organisation, granting us more means to increase the quality and number of contents. Thank you!