In her new series, Imogen Freeland presents the challenges and triumphs of becoming a mother
Titled Birth of a Mother, the London-based photographer’s new project captures motherhood at its most raw – a series she began after dealing with the difficult process herself.
- Ayla Angelos
- 18 February 2020
- Reading Time
- 3 minute read
Imogen Freeland’s love of photography stems back to her childhood. Reminiscent of her past, she explains how initially began playing around with the medium at the age of nine. “My brother had turned his bedroom into a darkroom and my sister was running photography classes from it and painting courses from the shed in the garden,” she tells It’s Nice That. “We’d process our film in my parents wardrobe, crouched in the dark.” Exciting and beneficial times to say the least, as it meant that Imogen had mastered the process of developing at an exceptionally young age.
The photographer, currently based in London, continued to work on her craft and resultantly saw the medium (as well as painting) as a “great relief and outlet”, due to the fact that she had struggled with dyslexia at school. It was Imogen’s college years that eventually ignited a spark in her process, which naturally led to photography “taking over” and becoming a “second language” – one that enabled her to make sense of the world. Then, she continued her studies at Falmouth College of Art before completing her MA in photography at London College of Communication. “I loved my time there,” she adds, “it gave me the opportunity to make work that really mattered to me.”
Describing herself as a fine art and portrait photographer, Imogen uses her camera as a way to document the lives and experiences of herself and those around her. “My hope is to create work the others are able to relate to or that will open a potentially sensitive subject up for discussion,” she comments on the description of her style. Doing just that, her most recent body of work looks at the most relatable topic of all: motherhood.
“I have always been interested in motherhood,” she tells us, before describing how, from a young age, she knew she wanted to have children. “I watched my siblings become parents and I worried for many years that perhaps I never would.” This is something she had long decided to make a project about, much before she had even become a mother herself. “I’d had a termination that I found very difficult,” she says. “At that time a lot of my friends were trying to get pregnant and struggling. Some were experiencing the heartbreak of miscarriage and others the struggles of fertility treatment and IVF. It was a long way off all of our expectations.”
With these experiences in tow, Imogen utilised photography as her armour to tell her story. In form of a new series titled Birth of a Mother, she aims to combat the often fictional interpretations of motherhood – particularly that which is found on Instagram – by presenting an honest depiction of becoming a mother. Her reasons are rooted in the fact that, when she fell pregnant with her son, she had found the process “incredibly gruelling” and states how she wasn’t sure she “glowed” at any point. It was a tricky time for Imogen, with prenatal depression following suit simply because she felt that her experiences of pregnancy hadn’t complied with social norms.
“The Instagram image of the pregnant and postpartum super mum is a fiction for most,” she says. “It’s an unrealistic example that makes women feel inadequate when they pursue and can’t achieve that possible standard. Because of this, the postpartum body is often shrouded in shame rather than celebrated; I want people to see the beauty in this physically transient and fragile time.”
Beginning the series by photographing her close friends and acquaintances, she soon enough had people reaching out asking to be photographed and to tell their stories. Recently, she had photographed someone who had conceived using a sperm donor and IVF after deciding that, even though the right partner might not appear, the choice of starting a family was her own. “I feel incredibly empowered by her and I’m grateful to all the women I photograph.”
Continuing to work on the series, Birth of a Mother is an ongoing project that presents the challenges and triumphs of her subjects with the most honest of lenses. With future plans of turning it into a book, it’s a highly necessary visual story to tell.