12 January 2022

The transformative journey of motherhood

12 January 2022 - Written by Laurence Cornet

In her ambitious book « The Quickening », Ying Ang makes full disclosure of what it means - psychologically and physically - to become a mother. 

“The Quickening” is a project that details my experience of the claustrophobia, myopia, paradoxical loneliness and luminance of matrescence. », photographer Ying Ang writes to introduce her series. And she uses all the possibilities offered by photography to convey this multi-faceted experience. With refined poetry, she documents the complex range of emotions she goes through while becoming a mother – that is, the process of matrescence.

And who better than Ying Ang, who had already touched upon autobiographical storytelling in her previous project Gold Coast, could approach such an utterly intimate subject? With great sincerity and a sharp appreciation of visual grammar, she represents this period of drastic changes. Next to a picture of her well-rounded belly, she juxtaposes a photograph of a shiny sphere piercing through the dark. How can’t we think about a planet, and by extension the expressions of changes sometimes so foreign they seem alien.

Metaphors are many. From the birds reflected on a closed window like a far away freedom to the wilted flower that evokes both the end of an era and the violence endured by the body. There are not only hard feelings though. Pearls of light float in several images. And the photographs of the baby shine with tenderness. It’s rather a roller coaster of emotions – the tissues on the bedside table ready to absorb the sadness ; the thunderstorm exploding above the city skyline as much as we imagine in the author’s heart ; the furniture covered with a large piece of plastic, asphyxiating, and somehow encompassing the range of her life as a new mother – the domestic sphere.

The techniques she uses also are taking us through a variety of feelings. She mixes black and white and colour as if to navigate various levels of reality – and how wouldn’t there be different levels of reality when the eyes end up barely open, the reddened by extreme fatigue? In the book she published about this series, she also adds some text, among which is the hour per hour unravelling of a day, from « 03:30 Awake, very upset. Very wet nappy. » to « 22:45 Dreamfeed. 250ml EBM. » The list doesn’t leave a single hour for herself. The use of riso prints enhances the loss of the notion of time. Just like the few photographs that look as if they are taken with surveillance cameras. 


All photos © Ying Ang, from the series The Quickening.


Ying Ang is a photographer and author currently based in Melbourne, Australia. She is also a teacher at the ICP in New York City and at Reflexions 2.0, in Europe, and a curator at Le Space Gallery, in Melbourne, Australia.

Laurence Cornet is a writer and curator based in Paris focusing on cultural and environmental issues. She is also the editorial director of Dysturb and the international photo editor at Le Monde.


This article is part of our feature series Photo Kernel, which aims to give space to the best contemporary practitioners in our community. The word Kernel means the core, centre, or essence of an object, but it also refers to image processing.

Written by

Laurence Cornet

Reading time

5 minutes

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