Nursing and peeing, Cincinnati, Ohio, 2014 © Anna Ogier-Bloomer
Scratches from breastfeeding at nine months, 2014 © Anna Ogier-Bloome
“She’s the flesh of my flesh,” says New York City-based photographer Anna Ogier-Bloomer of her daughter Violet, whose first two and a half years she’s feverishly chronicled between breast-feedings, catnaps, and sleepy revelations.
Letdown is her tribute to the original aches and pangs of motherhood. The physiological “letdown,” the release of milk triggered by the suckling of a child, becomes the central allegory the ineffable undertow of feeling that runs between a newborn and the woman who has borne her.
Ogier-Bloomer admits that she was unprepared for the all-consuming appetite of a child. She was overtaken, she says, by “incredible exhaustion,” such that her own anatomy seemed to loosen and detach from her psychological being. “I was blown away by how much my body became this other entity, not my own anymore,” confesses the artist, but despite the desperation and debilitation of the first few weeks, she had no choice but to make pictures.
“I hardly wanted to pick up the camera,” elaborates the photographer, and yet, the instants she witnessed and encountered with Violet could not go unrecorded. She felt a visceral and invisible cord tying her to her child, and separation was hard to bear. She yearned for Violet when they were apart.
Culturally, suggests Ogier-Bloomer, the erotic and sustaining functions of breasts are alienated from one another: “I had a friend who said how strange it is that when you give birth your breasts aren’t sexual anymore, but that’s not accurate. Those two things aren’t mutually exclusive.” As much as Letdown is about this mother and this child, it’s also about womanhood in a more universal sense; there’s a through-line forever binding her mother to herself and to her daughter.
The bond between herself and her baby has been almost frightening in its intensity; “The deep pain I feel when my daughter is hurt or sad is something that doesn’t disappear,” discloses the artist, “I would throw myself in front of a train for her.”
When asked about whether or not she’ll show these pictures to Violet when she gets older, the artist expresses a hope that the images can be “part of [her daughter’s] feminist education.” The phrase she used—“flesh of my flesh”—was initially used in the book of Genesis to describe Eve’s dependance on Adam, but Letdown reconfigures that same fierce reliance and faith to apply only to two women, one small and one grown.
First Night Home, 2013 © Anna Ogier-Bloome
Out, week one, 2013 © Anna Ogier-Bloome
Donated 4.6 gallons of breast milk, 2014 (image by Brooke Carter, OhioHealth Mothers’ Milk Bank) © Anna Ogier-Bloome
Lunchtime, 2015 © Anna Ogier-Bloome
Evening feeding with Daddy, 2014 © Anna Ogier-Bloome
Side-lying, 2014 © Anna Ogier-Bloome
Splayed, 2014 © Anna Ogier-Bloome
Engorged in morning, Brooklyn, NY, 2014 © Anna Ogier-Bloome
Tug, 2014 © Anna Ogier-Bloome