Home Truths

Photography and Motherhood

Edited by Susan Bright

Essays by Susan Bright, Stephanie Chapman, Nick Johnstone and
Simon Watney
With featured artists Janine Antoni, Elina Brotherus, Elinor Carucci, Ana Casas Broda, Ann Fessler, Tierney Gearon, Miyako Ishiuchi, Fred Hüning, Leigh Ledare, Annu Palakunnathu Matthew, Katie Murray and
Hanna Putz

‘Gorgeous and brave … painfully revealing’ — Chicago Tribune 
‘Surprising, stirring and provocative’ — Evening Standard
‘Visceral and powerful’ — The F Word
‘Playful and eloquent, unsentimental yet deeply moving, this is a welcome reassessment of maternal iconography’ — Time Out 

Published to coincide with an exhibition held at The Photographers’ Gallery and The Foundling Museum in London and touring to Chicago’s Museum of Contemporary Photography, this beautiful and striking book examines contemporary interpretations of one of the most enduring subjects in the history of picture-making: the image of the mother. Focusing on the work of twelve international photographic artists, the publication challenges the stereotypical or sentimental views of motherhood handed down by traditional depictions, and explores how photography can be used to address changing conditions of power, gender, domesticity, the maternal body, and female identity.

The work featured here is highly personal, often documentary in approach and with the individual subject at its centre, reflecting photography itself in the twenty-first century. The featured artists offer very different views of contemporary motherhood, from the devoted to the dysfunctional, representing the myriad ways that becoming – or even trying to become – a mother can radically alter a woman’s sense of self and how others perceive her. Each one explains in their own words the inspirations – and the emotions – behind the work.

The book’s essays, illustrated with dozens of comparative images from antiquity to the present day, present the historical and contemporary context of the mother figure. Curator of the exhibition and volume editor Susan Bright traces the history of photographs of motherhood from the nineteenth century to our ‘postfeminist’ age. Simon Watney weaves a fascinating narrative of the Madonna figure through the centuries. Nick Johnstone looks at the presentation of the mother from the perspective of the father, and considers how images of fatherhood compare, while Stephanie Chapman lays out the moving history of London’s Foundling Museum through photographs and repositions the mother in a story of loss where she is strangely absent.

Presenting contemporary thinking on motherhood through an exploration of its changing representation in photography, Home Truths provides a fresh and unique insight into one of the most universal and well documented of experiences.

Susan Bright is an independent curator and writer based in New York. She was formerly Assistant Curator of Photographs at the National Portrait Gallery, Curator at the Association of Photographers and Acting Director for the MA at Sotheby’s Institute of Art, all in London. Recent exhibitions include Something Out of Nothing, Fotogalleriet, Oslo (2007), How We Are: Photographing Britain (co-curated with Val Williams), Tate Britain, London (2007) and Face of Fashion, National Portrait Gallery, London (2007). Her books include Art Photography Now and Auto Focus: The Self Portrait in Contemporary Photography.

Stephanie Chapman is the curator of exhibitions and displays at The Foundling Museum, London.

Nick Johnstone is the author of fourteen books of non-fiction. As a journalist specializing in lifestyle and culture, he has written for the Guardian, the ObserverThe Times, the Daily Telegraph, the Sydney Morning Herald, the Irish Independent and the Huffington Post.

Simon Watney is the author of several books, and writes regularly for the Art Newspaper and the Burlington Magazine, of which he is a member of the editorial advisory committee.


What others say

‘Gorgeous and brave … painfully revealing … Motherhood has too often gone unnoticed, especially in an art world that to this day regularly tells artists — female artists, on the whole — that they must choose between having children and having a career. “Home Truths” gives the lie to that fallacy, and plenty of heroic honesty along with it.’ — Chicago Tribune

‘Reveals surprising, stirring and provocative angles on relationships between mothers and their children.… The overall effect of this fascinating collection not only exposes home truths, it also suggests intriguing fantasy in the maternal links.’ — Evening Standard

‘Playful and eloquent, unsentimental yet deeply moving, this is a welcome reassessment of maternal iconography.’ — Time Out