I joined a group of incredible journalists on an International Women’s Media Foundation group reporting trip to Mexico’s southern border in December 2016. I photographed families who were seeking safety in Mexico, published by The Intercept.
I got to spend a week photographing a mother’s life and work at an abortion clinic that’s also a birthing center for Cosmopolitan. It was amazing.
I love what Narratively did with my Women’s Work project, and am so glad to have the opportunity to speak about this work I’m doing (all of it!).
I loved seeing the Women’s Work project on Lens – Rena Silverman’s questions were so thoughtful!
I was so happy to see an excerpt of my working mothers photographs alongside a smart piece by fellow working mother Rebecca Traister. As is turns out, we were both on maternity leave when it ran. Doing it!
I teach a middle school photo class once a week in a public New York City middle school, and I’ve been photographing there and at similar schools. The schools speak with the same visual vocabulary but time and students personalize the walls. Assimilation, teenage rebellion: institutional architecture, teenage dismay – and hearts.
Slate published an interview with me and a selection of my Birth Culture photographs. I’m so glad to have had the chance to explain why I care about this project, and to share the work widely. I’m amazed and happy about the response it’s gotten – 24,000 shares on Facebook!
Much like death, the subject of birth is often taboo, a fact of life that is rarely explored beyond established procedure. Proujansky has been fascinated by the various ways in which each culture she has explored approaches birth but said that in the United States, gender and generation often dominate the conversation.
“We have ideas about what women’s bodies are for and it’s not this,” she said about American views on birth. “You see a woman naked but her body is performing functions that are intense. Our culture has a weird thing about images of women’s bodies doing this kind of physical work that isn’t young and sexy; birth has elements of struggle, power, transformation and mortality that don’t fit with our ideas about women’s bodies: they’re ok to look at when they’re sexy but when they’re working it’s something else. Birth is uncontrolled and that freaks us out.”
She also feels it ties into the idea of how we view motherhood.
“We sometimes celebrate mothers and put them on a pedestal and they’re supposed to be self sacrificing with an endless well of love but we also have stereotypes about them being intellect free with snide jokes about mom jeans and soccer moms.”
I worked on a piece about full-spectrum reproductive care for the New York Times Sunday Review with my frequent collaborator, writer Alissa Quart.
Buffalo Womenservices is unusual because it is a birth and abortion center in one. It is part of an effort to reframe reproductive care as a continuum — the phrase for it is “full-spectrum reproductive health” — that spans both birth and abortion. Facilities for each are typically distinct.
Combining the two in one place underlines how many women experience both birth and abortion. Three in 10 women will have an abortion in their lives; eight out of 10 will give birth. About 61 percent of women who have an abortion already have at least one child.
Kayla, the nurse pictured here, gave birth at Buffalo Womenservices before returning to work as a nurse who assists during the abortion procedures, taking breaks to pump breastmilk for her infant daughter. Like her co-workers, she believes that women’s choices around terminating pregnancy and around the way in which they give birth are related forms of essential reproductive choice. The facility’s doctor noted that all pregnancies are not the same, and women have a range of reasons for what they decide to do with them.
The women whose abortions I photographed were already mothers, and both of them took the interests of their children into account when making their decisions. The facility’s doctor expressed frustration at people’s tendency to project their own experiences onto other people’s complex lives.
All photographs ©Alice Proujansky 2015