Fiona Freund wants to shine a light on the hidden and overlooked talents of mothers, writes Leslie Manasseh. She is a professional photographer whose exhibition Motherworks in Brixton Library celebrates the skills, energy and determination that mothers need to bring up babies, toddlers and children.
Exploring and describing a role which is too often taken for granted, and seen as less important than paid work, she wants to show that mothers have multi-tasking skills which are second to none.
Her images represent women as mothers and professionals at the same time. They are bright, busy, and amusing. Domestic scenes have been turned into compelling visual tableaux – each one a glimpse into a hectic world.
She has very cleverly both composed a shot and made it appear spontaneous. But the real genius is that each photo is part of a story – a single sentence which leaves you wondering about the rest of the paragraph.
Many of them show scenes of domestic disorder which you know the mother concerned is going to have to clear up while remaining constantly vigilant about their children’s needs and behaviour. They also capture the frustrations, tolerance, chaos and above all, love, that is part of family life.
There is much humour in her work and many scenes are examples of situation comedy. As Fiona says: “It is funny when you’re trying to strap a toddler into a buggy on a conference call with a client in a driving blizzard”.
Although each image is accompanied by 200 words written by the mother telling her own story, Fiona believes that every mother will be able to see their own experiences in the photos.
There is also clear political dimension to her work. She points out that 54,000 women each year lose their jobs or are sidelined at work because of falling pregnant. Her photos have messages for women, for men and for employers. She wants them to start a conversation about the home and workplace and get employers to understand quite how skilled mothers are.
I asked her if there was one single thought she would like visitors to the show to leave with, what would it be. She said: “Mums are fuckin‘ amazing”. Go to the show and I’m sure you will agree.
Motherworks runs until 4 April in Brixton library. Entry is free.
A new edition of the MotherWorks book is now available from online retailers.