The let down reflex is an involuntary reflex that occurs during breastfeeding which allows the milk to flow out of the milk ducts. Often, it is simultaneously both painful and pleasurable. This powerful physical response is not only triggered by a baby suckling at the breast; it can be set off by psychological experiences, like hearing your baby cry, or even by sexual stimulation.
This reflects the experience of new motherhood, complex in its pleasure and its discomfort. The images in this book, made during the first two years of my new role as mother, demonstrate the complexity of doing the most difficult yet meaningful work I’d ever done. The physical act of motherhood begins at conception and continues to evolve through a child’s life. Here, I turn my lens on these physical elements: pain on the surface of the skin, illness, emotional outpouring of love and distress, a breast engorged with milk. These things simultaneously bring excruciating physical pain and unparalleled emotional joy. Through images of my own mother, I attach a thread from one generation to the next. I confront the complexity of these seemingly contradictory states of being, and the ways in which women feel the pull of motherhood, their children, and their physical self and appearance in a way unlike anything else.
“The bad and the good moments are inseparable for me. I recall the time when, suckling each of my children, I saw his eyes open full to mine, and realized each of us was fastened to the other, not only by mouth and breast, but through our mutual gaze: the depth, calm, passion, of that dark blue, maturely focused look. I recall the physical pleasure of having my full breast suckled at a time when I had no other physical pleasure in the world... I remember early the sense of conflict, of a battleground none of us had chosen, of being an observer who, like it or not, was also an actor in the endless contest of wills.”
– Adrienne Rich, from “Anger and Tenderness,” Of Woman Born: Motherhood as Experience and Institution, 1976
Nursing and peeing, Cincinnati, Ohio 2014 Archival inkjet print 24” x 30” Edition of 3 + 2 AP, framed and mounted
Anna Ogier-Bloomer (b. 1983, Hartford, CT) was raised in Cincinnati, Ohio. She is a feminist artist and photographer whose work has been published widely online, including Feature Shoot, Refinery29, Huffington Post, Daily Mail, and Float Photo Magazine. Residencies include The Wassaic Project and Project for Empty Space’s Feminists Residency. Her work has been shown at nationally including Paul Robeson Gallery at Rutgers University Newark, The Contemporary Art Center in Cincinnati, Wellesley College and the Attleboro Arts Museum, among others.
She holds an MFA from Parsons, an MPS in Digital Photography from the SVA, and a BFA from SMFA at Tufts. She is a Lecturer in professional practices at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and has served on the graduate faculty at SVA, and as adjunct Assistant Professor at CUNY. She also lectures widely on creating and building a sustainable fine arts practice. She lives in Chicago with her husband and two children.