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New photography exhibition, Holding the Baby, opens in London

By 19th July 2021No Comments

Woman photographer Polly Braden shines a light on single parent families in new exhibition, at Museum of the Home until August 29.

Statistically, there are around 1.8 million single parent households in Britain, making up a quarter of the families with dependent children. And around 90 percent of single parents are women.

Featuring a series of portraits by Polly Braden, text by writers Claire-Louise Bennett and Sally Williams, Holding the Baby is about the resilience of single-parent households living in austere circumstances. The year-long project comprises of photographs and interviews aiming to shed a light on the experiences, challenges and strengths possessed by single parents

Holding the Baby, 2021. © Polly Braden, courtesy of Polly Braden

Polly’s motivation behind this project is not just an examination of the policies impacting single parents but also stems from her own experience of being a single parent.

After becoming a single parent myself I started to explore some of the prejudices leading to policies that scrutinise and punish the parent who has stayed. The people I’ve met in the making of this work constantly show their sense of adventure and their resilience transcends the often difficult situations they face.’

Polly Braden

Photographing the families in their natural settings, whether it’s a mother at home reading a book to their children, a father working in the garden, or a mother on her way to meet an investor for her business but is also at home spending time with her son.

Polly treats her subjects with sensitivity and respect, focusing on the joyousness and mundaneness of being a parent.

Not romanticising the idea of being a single parent, Polly tactfully acknowledges the many obstacles single-parent families face. She encourages the viewer to redirect their focus from these obstacles, to the warmth these mothers and fathers surround their children with.

A woman walking slightly ahead of a boy aged around 10. She is smiling at him, while he looks a bit disgruntled. They are walking on a road in front of a bricked wall, painted red, with two patches of lighter red coloured paint. She is stylishly dressed in a long skirt and loose jacket, with fabulous pink, wedged heeled sandals. The boy is wearing a bright red t-shirt, denim shorts and dark trainers.

Barbeline and Elijah, Holding the Baby, 2021 © Polly Braden, courtesy of Polly Braden

The importance of this project is not to continue to ‘other’ single-parent families but to highlight the lack of support from employment, society or from the government.

Museum of the Home contemporary curator, Sinéad McCarthy, puts it succinctly, ‘We are committed to represent the diverse meaning of home and the nuances of what real lived experience looks like. The role of museums is changing, it’s important that we confront urgent social issues such as this, and create space for conversation and debate. We have an opportunity to raise awareness and create change by giving voice to important narratives that may otherwise be overlooked.’

Polly Braden’s new exhibition, Holding the Baby, is being held at the Museum of Home, London till 29 August. It will also tour Open Eye Gallery, Liverpool in September 2021 and Arnolfini Gallery, Bristol in February 2022.

By Shyama Laxman