Naomi Wood – I Wake to Listen

In October 2018, a year after moving into a static caravan to save money for a house, I gave birth to our son. This work, which I have been making the past two years, explore my experience of early motherhood whilst living in this space.

I thought it would feel magical, but it doesn’t. It’s blood and sweat and sick and milk and poo. It’s primal, it’s gross. When he has a cold I have to suck snot from his nose so he can breathe. I wake in the morning in a puddle of my own milk, when he cries the pull to care for him feels like a cheese grater dragging through my insides. It’s suffocating. Tears come most days. But as I get to know him, the love I feel is like no other and slowly, I’m starting to get to know myself again.

The images I was so accustomed to seeing of family life, didn’t depict any of this. So I began to make my own, to make sense of this new world. In the ’70s Jo Spence and Rosy Martin wrote:

Family snaps, hardly give any indication of the contradictions, power struggles or desires inherent at all levels of family life, or in the intersection of that life with the structures which make up a patriarchal society with sexual, racial and class divisions.

50 years on, I feel this to be true. It’s hard to share these images. I don’t like how I look in them, I don’t want my Son to see this version of his Mother. But I am so tired of the standard parents are still expected to live up to.

The caravan sits in a wild parcel of land, the oak tree standing next to it provides me with a calendar to mark the passing of time. These photographs are a document of this time. Each generation of new parents has their own battles to plough through alongside raising their children. Ours is a lack of affordable housing and now a worldwide recession caused by a pandemic. But nature remains, parenting continues. Sprouting, growing, wilting, reproducing. Although this work represents my limited experience, I intend for it to speak universally. I’m interested in how honest depictions of parenthood and in this case, motherhood can influence the experience of others and connect us as humans, sharing this experience.

Naomi Wood is a UK based documentary photographer, creating stories for brands and editorial. Her personal practice tells stories from the lives of Womxn through raw and intimate portraits. I Wake To Listen has been featured in The British Journal of Photography, Creative Review and It’s Nice That. She is also the curator of @picturingparenthood.