I'm Jendella, a twenty-four year old photographer and filmmaker based in London. Alongside commissions and client work I work on socially-focused documentary projects about issues relevant to my community. I've previously worked on a project about ex-gang members in South London called Where The Devil Won't Go which has been exhibited around London including the Bernie Grant Art Centre in Tottenham, and also created a conceptual project about skin bleaching called Our Skin, which has been exhibited at the Arden & Anstruther gallery in Sussex and the Brockton Collective in Toronto, Canada. My most recent project is Young Motherhood, and it addresses the realities being a young mother raising children in Britain.
About Young Motherhood
I was inspired to start this project as I have friends who have had children at what society often deems to be "too young". I have witnessed their efforts in raising their children as well as working towards their own personal goals and have been inspired by their diligence and focus, as well as their persistence in overcoming challenges they face. However, in the mainstream consciousness this picture of the hard-working young mother is absent, and often the conversation about "teen pregnancy" or young motherhood revolves around "irresponsible" young girls, who are seen as promiscuous or opportunistic – opening their legs for council flats and handouts from the government. You will find "irresponsible" mothers at any age, but the tiny percentage of younger mothers who may not be making good decisions for them or their children has been used time and again to shame and belittle entire generations of young women playing one of the most important roles in our society. Not only is this ridiculous stereotype unfair, but the widespread public perception affects the real lives of young women who are working tirelessly to raise their children well, as well as continue in their education, career or other goals. This sensationalist perspective sells papers but it also misinforms policy makers and MPs, with young mothers being blamed for everything from the welfare deficit and housing shortage to urban crime and all other societal ills.
Unlike common documentary photographic practices I do not wish to co-opt the stories of the "marginalised" or "disadvantaged". The most important part of this project was travelling around the UK to photograph and interview women (27 in total) who are, or have been, young mothers – that is women who have given birth to children in their early twenties or below – to hear directly from them what their experiences have been raising their children. I see myself as using my skills to amplify their voices in the hopes that their experiences can intelligently inform discussion and start a much-needed conversation within our communities on how best to support young families in our common goal for an inclusive and healthy society.
So now that I've got all these interviews and images what am I going to do with them? Well, there are three important ways that I want Young a Motherhood to be delivered:
- A film containing the interviews
- A book of the photographs and interview transcripts
- An exhibition of the portraits to launch the project and screen the film to the public in September or October 2014
The film and the book would be valuable resources for young mothers and those working with them. Many of the women I spoke to related how important it is to have community and the encouragement of others who really understood their situation, and for those young women who may be feeling isolated these resources are valuable.
The exhibition is an opportunity to get press interested in the project and I am planning to invite down MPs, policy makers, journalists and organisations to honestly engage in the discussion. The exhibition would also be an opportunity to host panels, events and activities for families to come down and engage in the exhibition, opening up the gallery space to the wider community.
How Much Is Needed?
Gallery hire for a week-long exhibition: £1,300
Producing exhibition prints and materials for hanging: £550
Promotional material for the exhibition (flyers, posters, invites): £150
As you can see the amount raised does not include the initial print run for the books as this is really expensive and would push up the total significantly! I am still researching my options for this (if you have any suggestions please get in touch!) but my initial plan is to take preorders in order to get the first set of books printed and take it from there.
What Do You Get?
For all your generous donations there are some perks provided ranging from love letters to invites to the exhibition private view and launch, to digital copies of the film and book and professional portrait shoot options (UK only). I'm working on providing more perks as well so I'll let you know when new ones become available! (Delivery dates for the digital love and love note perks are weekly, while rest will be delivered in Autumn, around the time of the exhibition launch. The portrait sessions will be arranged at a mutually convenient time for the both of us around Autumn/Winter 2014.)
Other Ways You Can Help
You can help me out by publicising the project and also this campaign with your family, friends, colleagues and any relevant organisations! If you are UK-based as well, please contact your local MP and let them know about this project and that you care about the misrepresentation of young mothers in the mainstream media. Click here to see how you can contact them, as well as a template email you can sign and send.