Polly Braden and Harry Borden’s New Photography Projects Celebrate the Complexity and Beauty of Being a Single Parent
The image of the single parent is often distorted by outdated notions of masculinity: the strong and resilient backbone of the family, the working parent, the emotionally distant parent.
in a book published this spring, portrait photographer Harry Borden – himself a estranged father with four children – reveals the tenderness and vulnerabilities of 48 single parents. Each has suffered a loss of some kind and has struggled to adjust to being the primary caregiver, but with the help of their children they have found a renewed sense of purpose.
In the photo above, Neil Young appears with his sons Kiwa and Ngaire. He became a father only when his partner, Jeng, died in 2015.
“I spent the first two years on adrenaline and cold blood,” Young said. “I kept feeling down, but I got up again, even though a voice said, ‘Stay down, you’re exhausted!'”
The pandemic has been a challenge for parents in general, but for single parents,‘It has been almost impossible. While Borden‘In the book that sheds light on single parents, up to 90 percent of single parent households are headed by women.
A new photographic exhibition of Polly Braden, Holding the baby, aims to show what life is like for single parents of both sexes. Show “the imagination, determination and pride of single parent families; unique bonds between parents and children, forged by freedom, love, adventure and fatigue “ read a review in The Guardian.
The exhibition features stories like Jana‘s: a mother of two who ran away from an arranged marriage with her two children. “I took Yaana’s car seat, the milk bottle and some of her clothes, and called a taxi at one in the morning, ”he said. “Two years ago, if someone had told me that I would be living in London alone, taking care of my children alone and that I would have a place in the university, I would never have believed it. The old me would never have recognized who I am today. “
Single mother Jana, with her children Isaac and Yaana. Image: Polly Braden
Recently launched UK campaign group Single Parent Rights a report what did you find 80 percent of single-parent families had suffered some form of discrimination, and almost 60 percent had suffered discrimination in employment.
“I’ve had wonderful and compassionate employers, but not always,” said Young, the single father in the Harry Borden portrait. “In the workplace, he worries that he will be seen as weak if he shows that he is not doing so well. But that does not mean that you are no longer capable of doing great work; it’s just that you need a little support and understanding. “
While research on the experiences of single parents is generally not a lighthearted read, Ruth Talbot, founder of Single Parents Rights, see the pandemic as a tipping point in breaking down the barriers they face.
One of the report’s key recommendations is to add single-parent families to the Equality Act as a ‘protected characteristic’, something endorsed by 96% of the 1,083 single parents surveyed. It also makes recommendations to address discrimination, such as making flexible working the default in all jobs.
On Single Parents’ Day in March, a newly minted recognition day in 2020, the group wrote an open letter to Equality Minister Liz Truss, requesting “an urgent meeting to discuss the current discrimination faced by single parents“. Furthermore, his report was ‘welcome‘ By Caroline Noakes, Chairperson of the Commons Equality and Women’s Select Committee.
While activists continue to seek equal rights, making the lives of single parents more visible through art projects should go some way to raising awareness, not least empathy.
In Young’s children’s favorite movie, My Neighbor Totoro, the mother is in the hospital and there is a feeling that she will not return. Young described the film’s outpouring of wild and surreal beauty as a response to unimaginable loss. “It is a reminder that there is still beauty and joy in this world, waiting for you,” he said. “I once dreamed that Jeng was a bird. He was alone in a boat with the children, beating the waves. We had to let her go, but she’s flying above us. “
Holding the baby will be exhibited at the Museum of Home in London from June 12 to August 29, 2021, followed by the Open Eye Gallery in Liverpool and Bristol‘s Arnolfini. Single dad Harry Borden’s is out now, published by Hoxton Mini Press.
Lead Image: Harry Borden