A book of black and white photographs (with perforated leaves)
Concept Stage

In a sleep-deprived world of flashing, primary coloured plastic, and relatives grumbling about not having seen enough photos of one’s baby recently, it’s all too easy for parents to lose track of who they really are. I feel as though it sounds disrespectful to my adored children to state that I am ‘more than just a mum’, but I feel quite fiercely as though I am.

About 15 years before having my first child I’d graduated with a First Class (hons) degree in Fine Art from Winchester School of Art. My art practice went on the back burner as my career went off in a curatorial direction. I had a dream that I’d (re)launch my fine art practice with gusto ‘when the child sleeps’… only my babies weren’t that keen on sleep! So, when an ex-colleague, (Graham, previously of Ikon Gallery, Birmingham where I’d worked at the very beginning of my professional career) invited me to participate in a Black and White Photo Challenge on Facebook (uploading one black and white photo per day for seven days, no people, no captions, challenge a friend to join the fun each day), I jumped at the opportunity to photograph other than my adored, technicoloured off-spring.

My phone’s always within arms reach (generally switched to silent – never wake a sleeping baby! Oh, the irony!), so taking photos on my phone was one thing I could do to find the person beneath the mother.

I started off taking seven photos on consecutive days, passed fourteen, and by twenty I’d resolved to create a book of photos charting a year. Some parents bake, other parents jog, I started photographing in earnest (some of them have artistic merit, some of them are pretty poor, which I’m fine with as it kinda reflects the “winning at/really not winning at” everyday existence of parenthood, and the relentless pressure to perform). The exercise has given me a new focus that’s easily managed alongside parenting, it’s made me look and consider my surroundings in a more analytical fashion than I would otherwise, and it has given me hope that I might be able to give something back to the causes that had really helped me at the beginning of  my parenting journey. To watch the progress of the project, find me on Instagram @wouldyoulookatthatmother

Life as a new mother to my first born was pretty tough for various reasons, and those around me saw my Post Natal Post Traumatic Stress turn into Post Natal Depression. LLL (La Leche League International, a non-governmental, nonprofit organisation that organises advocacy, educational, and training related to breast feeding) and NCT (The National Childbirth Trust, a UK-based charity that offers information and support in pregnancy, childbirth and early parenthood) both helped me dig my way out of the very dark, deep and unsettling hole that I’d found myself adrift in. After having got back on track, and finding my groove I realised that I wanted to do something to help and increase awareness of these two invaluable charities, but it wasn’t until I had a second babe in arms that I figured out what.

Having become a parent whilst living in a tiny shoe-box of a house, I realised how many new parents, in a panic-stricken state, up and move to homes with more space shortly after becoming parents. If I could create a book with a percentage of proceeds going to these two charities, a book with perforated leaves that enabled people to pull out plates, and fill their walls with interesting images at relatively low cost, I could help families on several levels, whilst helping my own.

The working title of the book is #wouldyoulookatthatmother a play on words to echo the unhelpful maternal finger pointing habit, and the often fragile state of minds of sleep-deprived mothers who struggle to see a world beyond their littlies.

I can’t finance the publication of books myself, but if enough people like the idea, I’m going to look into the possibility of crowdfunding the project. So that’s what I’m doing – want to help me to help charities help more families help themselves? Email me on sarah@sarahmayhewcraddock.com