Breastfeeding exhibition helps share mothers’ experience

After breastfeeding for six weeks with her now three-year old child, Scottsdale-born Olivia Brown was diagnosed with an auto-immune disease. 

It left her blind in one eye for an extended period of time.

“They don’t really know what happened,” Brown said.

“Because I was home with a baby that wouldn’t take a bottle, and my personal struggles, I really felt isolated and alone. 

“I had all these health issues and had a baby that wouldn’t sleep, so I was sleep deprived.”

Brown regained her sight after six months, however the illness spurred her to artistically explore breastfeeding in the medium of photography. 

Her project involved photographing and interviewing 100 Tasmanian women on their individual experiences of breastfeeding.

An exhibition featuring 20 of these women from the North-East – Where is my Villiage: Breastfeeding Portraits Exhibition – opened on Sunday afternoon at Scottsdale Art Gallery Cafe.  

A book showcasing all of the women photographed will also be released in the next month.

“Everyone’s experience [of breastfeeding] is very different,” Brown said.

“To start off, I thought it was about the photos, but then I started reading about the stories from these women and that was actually the most powerful thing. 

“I realised I had to share this with people because no two women have the same story.

“I even asked women to describe how breastfeeding made them feel in one word and literally every single woman had a different word.”

The word Brown uses to describe her breastfeeding experience?

“I think mine was probably anxious or overwhelmed,” she said.

“I did love breastfeeding, but when I’m the only person feeding the baby all the time and to have to get up all the time, it puts a lot on your body.

“Hence going [partially] blind, I guess.”

One Scottsdale woman featured in the exhibition is Rachelle Fish and her baby Django.

The word she used to describe breastfeeding was “precious”.

“As challenging as breastfeeding can be, I believe it is a remarkable gift of nature,” she said.

“I feel extremely grateful that I was able to be breastfeed both of my babies, and I will always treasure this time.”

Money raised from optional studio fees from the photographs will go toward breast cancer research. 

Brown hopes to donate $3000 to the cause.

Her Scottsdale exhibition will run until May 27.