Renowned Cape Town Photographer, Leah Hawker captured this stunning shot of my son nursing just a few months before he weaned.
Fast forward a couple of years and Leah’s pro bono breastfeeding project has taken on a life of its own and turned into the most gorgeous book with:
- 101 full-colour portraits and 101 personal stories and anecdotes (one from each mother)
- The book is 22cm x 27cm in size, it’s a hardcover with 224 pages
- It includes three essays, including one by a microbiologist specialising in breastmilk studies
Book Launch (Save the Date)
The Book Launch will be on Thursday, 1st August at 6 pm at The Book Lounge in Cape Town.
World Breastfeeding Week 2019 runs from Thursday, 1st August until Wednesday, 7th August.
Leah’s book is being published through Staging Post which is Jacana Media’s self-publishing wing and is set to go to print towards the end of June and be delivered to Leah’s Studio in Woodstock, Cape Town in the third week of July.
Leah is printing 1000 copies and I’m sure they will sell out fast. To avoid disappointment, I recommend you pre-purchase a copy.
How to Get Your Copy (before the Launch)
From 1st – 21st July you will be able to pre-purchase Leah’s book on Thundafund.com.
This is the first place/time that the book will be available to sell and it will be at its best possible price of R300 per copy. Thereafter it will be available in a few private book shops/ sales locations and Exclusive Books.
We’ll be giving away a FREE copy of Leah’s book.
Look out for details on how to enter in our next post.
An Interview with Leah Hawker (Part 1)
As excitement builds over the next few weeks, we’ll be publishing exclusive interviews with Leah Hawker, starting with this one.
What inspired you to start this project?
A number of things. I’d say that social media was the tipping point though.
I’d been following the subject of breastfeeding, amongst other women-related topics, and it suddenly exploded. Articles, comments, images; they were everywhere.
It may have had to do with my being involved in more birthing and new motherhood photoshoot stories but slowly I became aware of quite how valuable the subject of breasts was for our for society. I really wanted to unpack it.
Why are you so interested in breastfeeding?
I’m interested in the role that the female breast plays in feminine identity currently.
The breast represents two very important roles for a woman: sexual/beauty and nutritive/Motherhood.
These two roles are not ones that society likes to put side by side and it is exactly this which makes this piece of our anatomy so interesting and such an exciting topic to work with.
Why did you want the Moms to be serious in your shots and not smiling?
There are many images of breastfeeding out there already. So many make breastfeeding appear iconic, romantic, easy, beautiful. I didn’t want this message to be the strongest one which my portraits would highlight.
I wanted these photographs to be visual documents of an act. And I felt that body language which communicates strength and unity, both in the challenges involved in the act and also of womanhood, were important to me.
Women generally don’t stand when breastfeeding and this has been the most questioned part of the compositions: I feel that having the Mothers stand and look directly into the camera while breastfeeding puts the viewer into direct communication with them.
By making the format methodical in the image making process I’ve purposefully created a nurturing army so to say! They are confrontational.
What made you do this project pro-bono?
I think that as an independent creative on has to put oneself out there in order to gain recognition and ultimately gain the reputability in an area of expertise where you’re recognised and needed for certain work.
I really want to be involved in more large-scale women’s empowerment projects and I felt that doing this project as a self-motivated piece was the most significant way of bringing this message across.
Where does the title of the book “Breastfeeding 101” come from?
I had been referring to the body of work as simply my ‘breastfeeding project’ and finally, about a third of the way into the portraits, a fitting title occurred to me during a long seaside walk one day. I had to stop and process the idea and was quite thrilled with it actually!
The term ‘101’ refers to the basic knowledge of any subject and so using that term for this body of work implies some very interesting things to both the project and the subject.
Breastfeeding is full of contradictory facts, understandings and mixed messages, as is this project.
I feel this highlights the idea that by looking at this variety of women and their stories that you gain an insight into a subject you would most likely not have had before.
*Breastfeeding 101points out all the basics we don’t know, there is surprisingly so much!
What message would you like to convey with this project?
That communication and support which can be shared and passed on between women are vital, it is our strength.
Women have a natural sense of community that is powerful when acted on. We’ve become so nuclear that we’re losing this strength and thus losing key elements of our identities, our health and even the health of our newest generation. It’s scary.
Highs & lows during the project?
The darkest pits of transcribing 101 interviews into their perfect mini, summarised versions of themselves while still trying to maintain the integrity and natural voice of each Mother, – was a painful process. And I’m relieved it’s behind me.
It sounds dramatic, I know, but this part of the project was a huge learning curve, ultimately a good one though.
My favourite parts? Learning totally new and often very surprising new facts about all of these women’s lives. Seeing the talented book designer, Gabrielle Guy, putting what was in my mind for so long into the actual visual design made my heart pop with happiness as well.
View this post on Instagram
I'm finally starting this Instagram blog! It's taken a while as this project has kept me so busy. I'll be using this platform to share the three year project I have been working on: "Breastfeeding 101"! The project was initially planned as a large scale portrait series, one project amongst many that Im working on concurrently with my commercial photographic work, but this project exploded! More info to follow. In this #BehindTheScenes shot I'm photographing one of the 101 Mommies who participated in this project and have brought it to life!
Number one highlight in your career as a photographer?
Oooooh, so hard to pin down one! May I have three, please? Cheeky, I know! In no particular order:
- Every time I download new work I’ve shot and find those few real gems; I’m totally thrilled, really every single time!
- Being awarded to shoot the Playboy Playmate of the Year photo shoot at the most breath-taking location in Zambia.
- And right now, the process of publishing a self-motivated project I’ve worked so hard for; I’m finally seeing it come to fruition. For the first time, I’m getting feedback from individuals and organisations who are seeing it.
What has been the greatest challenge with this project?
I’ve felt incredibly isolated most of the time. After shooting so much work related to sexuality and the ‘sexy body’ I didn’t really have a support structure in place to start working on the opposite end of feminine identity.
I felt that, apart from the individual Mothers I photographed, I couldn’t discuss the project much with people who (I felt) had previously upheld my work which reflected more glamourous femininity and big-name brands.
Do you have any daily rituals which help you maintain a work-life balance?
I don’t think these are ever in balance, but I like it this way. My work and my personal life are totally intertwined. Most things which interest me are linked to what I do as a photographer and creative.
In terms of rituals; I spend time in bed each morning with two coffees formulating my day while looking out my bedroom window at the morning light. A calm moment before the mania of a day begins.
Ooh, Leah, THANK YOU… we are so honoured and proud to back you on this project.
How can you back Leah Hawker’s amazing project right now? Leave a comment below or share this post.
AND… Look out for our next post in a week or two and those details on how to enter our FREE GIVEAWAY.