In my mid 20s, I was diagnosed with endometriosis and in my 30s, I endured close to a decade of infertility struggle with my ex. We parted amicably and about a year later I pursued In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) alone. I’m not religious at all, but I concede the birth of my child as a result of that surgery remains a bit of a miracle for me. I’ve come to photography just as I’d come to motherhood: a bit later in life than I otherwise might have planned. When I picked up a camera for the first time in decades, I felt most comfortable exploring landscape. I was particularly drawn to farmlands I’d witnessed undergoing repeated cycles of implantation, fecundity and harvest while I looked on season after season with a mixture of envy and hope. I’m currently in talks with a local publisher on Fallow, my first photo book, comprising these rural landscapes and my simultaneous journey to motherhood. Last year, wanting to become braver about my work, I cast about for how I might begin to photograph people and document their stories. Thus began what I hope will continue as a long term project: Womb. It’s where we all begin so it felt a natural place to start. Reproductive health, access and rights are immensely important to me. Globally, reproductive access and rights are increasingly challenged or oppressed, even non-existent. Via Womb, I further seek to destigmatize discussions about our bodies and reveal why access and rights must be and remain protected.
Ahead of beginning my MA this fall and my planned MRP, Tundra, which will explore and challenge colonial perspectives of the Arctic as ‘barren land’, I’m headed shortly to Helsinki to document Women of the Arctic, a two-day side event at Arctic Congress 2018. I feel incredibly lucky. It’s such a privilege when people honour you with documenting their personal stories. I hope to do them each some justice in this current climate when injustice abounds.
Nancy Forde is a Canadian documentary photographer, Irish mother and visual seanchaí (storyteller). Professionally, she is a member of both Women Photograph and Foto.RE and a contributor to Plan A. Her work explores the sinew between humans and their environment, navigating themes of isolation, belonging, erasure, memory, boundaries, and health. Of special focus are reproductive and mental health and the rights of those most affected by targeted oppression and systemic failure to safeguard them. Polar health also draws her eye, particularly in the Arctic, including its food security, cultural preservation, and the survival of, and consequences from, the continued fallout of colonialism upon its land and inhabitants. In 2017, she began a documentary photography project, Womb, on how this part of the human anatomy affects our lives. In Autumn 2018, she begins an MA in Photojournalism and Documentary Photography (UAL, London, UK). Her major research project, Tundra, aims to be a visual ultrasound confirming vitality and examining barrenness in lives and landscape encountered above the 66th parallel.
all images © Nancy Forde