I remember in university learning the literal meaning of ambivalence. It comes from the Latin prefix ambi meaning both and valence for strength or power. Literally, it means two-powered. Back then, I understood the concept of being powered by two contradictory emotions to some extent intellectually, but it wasn't until I became a mother that I truly got it.
The pictures and writing in this book were made during the first two years of my son's life. Around the time my son was seven months old, I gave up my obsession with trying to get him to sleep in his crib by himself, and started writing and making photographs while he slept in either a sling around my shoulder or a stroller. I gave up on the parenting books with their conflicting advice but matching prescriptive approach, condescending tone, and dire consequences if I didn't comply.
The photographs were all made within walking distance of our home. In January 2009, I went through all the pictures I'd made around my town in preparation for a local exhibition, and discovered a bunch of pictures that I thought were quite interesting. I put them in a separate folder as I searched, and at the end of the exercise I had more than 300 pictures. I was struck by how bleak and dark they all were, given that the small university town I live in is neither of those things.
At the time I was making the pictures, it felt like an activity totally separate from my motherhood, almost an escape from it. Now, looking over the photos I made on those walks, I realize it wasn't separate at all: they are all about my experience as a mother. Now, I see that I wasn't just really into urban decay like I told myself at the time. I was expressing something about my experience of motherhood. I was drawn to graffiti, broken signs, and ripped, home-made posters — they were full of messages from people like me seeking a voice outside the dominant discourse. Again and again, I photographed places and things that were overlooked and undervalued, things that mirror the position of motherhood in our culture, where cleavages are perfectly natural but a breastfeeding child is just too risqué for 'family' establishments. Sometimes I photographed people, but they are mostly alone: sometimes isolated or alienated like I felt, other times in the solitude and stillness I craved.
At the same time I was making these images, I also wrote: monthly letters to my son and a blog, which allowed me to forge a virtual community of mothers. Putting them together in this book, I played on the idea of two-powered by creating diptychs and interspersing them with text from the same time period. Somewhere in the push-pull between the words and the images is a message about one experience of motherhood in our culture.