And the image with its original Ulterior Monologue hashtags – it shows it in a very different light.
Ulterior Monologue is the project that I first started to use hashtags with. It was my response to my awkwardness of using hashtags and wanting to use more text with my images, but also feeling awkward about that.
The project was about wanting to be pregnant but not feeling able to talk about it. It started to come to a natural end when I found out I was pregnant, though there was some crossover with my new pregnancy project. I didn’t announce my pregnancy on social media until I was 20 weeks due to feeling worried that something bad would happen and not wanting to ‘curse myself’. It also took me a while to figure out what I was doing project wise and how to go about posting without revealing I was pregnant; in the end I went for the ‘post all the projects I’ve ever done’ archive approach on my Instagram.
I had forgotten about how I felt during this photo, but having never been pregnant before every little pain made me nervous. Pregnancy is thought of as a beautiful time, which it is, but I found it very stressful – even before the pandemic.
I never went to get the cramps checked out. It could have been wind (I think I had forgotten the scenario so I never had to share hashtags about trapped wind, but after having a baby you talk about bodily functions A LOT) or it could have just been my uterus stretching (makes sense as I was growing a baby inside it) or something else.
It is said that a photo says a 1000 words, but I don’t think a picture can tell you everything or even that much sometimes. Maybe a picture just makes you think what you want to think based on your life experiences and personality. Show a picture to 100 people and I wonder what they would all say and how differing the opinions would be about what the image is really about. Obviously it depends on what the image is of – show a picture of a cat and I’m sure there would be a mixed crowd of ‘that’s cute’ and ‘I hate cats’.
These two sets of hashtags really show two different sides to the image and if you only see one set then you miss part of the story. How would you know that I was pregnant and stressing out about cramps just by looking at a picture of me in a hat? It’s true I don’t look happy, but I’m not about to open the can of worms that is ‘why don’t people smile in photos these days?’ Does it really matter though about only knowing part of the story? I’d forgotten half of it myself.
Anyways, I think using hashtags with my work really brings another level to the pictures, though whether people choose to read them or not is their choice.
I love text with photographs and back when I used to go to exhibitions (used to because of Covid) I’d often spend more time reading the accompanying image text rather than looking at an image. I wonder if this will change when I finally go to a show again – will I want to hang around? Will I be able to with a baby anyways? Will I feel comfortable using a public toilet and changing her in one? How will I feel about breastfeeding in public or will I just choose to express and bottle-feed her?
With shoots I end up taking a lot of images and with most of them it’s difficult to edit them down as the differences are so subtle. In the beginning I take a lot of pictures to make sure that I am in the right position – as central as possible as I am usually central-ish in my images. Then once I find something I do a lot of little variations and take enough to make sure that I ‘have the shot’. Now I’m debating if this is better than the one I chose but I think looking off makes me look a bit more thoughtful whereas this seems more confrontational? Maybe I’m talking rubbish. I can’t believe my hair used to be this long…
The whole project is full of belly shots and I think I realised how ridiculous a shot like this would be in the beginning, though does it really matter? No. Even though I have done nude projects I do feel awkward about sitting around in my pants for shoots, though less so after having 6 people at the birth of my child, and having my boobs prodded and poked by lots of women whilst trying to breastfeed in hospital.
This seems a bit too adventurous and belly squashing for a pregnancy picture. Even though it took about 9 months for me to get pregnant I then was doing lots of stupid things like falling over for a video repeatedly as I think I could not believe I was pregnant. Perhaps I knew I would not be able to do these more flexible poses for much longer which is why I milked it as much as possible with this shoot.
A big secret (that isn’t so secret and especially not now) about how I shoot for my self-portrait projects – generally I have no idea what I am going to do for a shoot.
With this shoot I had no clue and looking back for outtakes I can see that, though the theme seemed to be that pink top that my younger sister gave me and being sat on the floor.
I play around and then when I find something that I like I ‘riff on it’ – yeah like a musician or something.
In 2010 after my BA I was shortlisted to take a portrait for the National Museum Wales and National Portrait Gallery. I travelled from Birmingham to Cardiff for the interview and proudly talked about how I don’t plan shoots and you could just see in their faces how disapproving they were, yet I kept going on. The thing is at university me and my friend Sarah (who started and runs We Are Hairy People) did fashion shoots all the time when we were in the mood and we generally had no plan; we were always winging it. I’d photograph and she would model. We would just pull random clothes from our wardrobes and mess about with usually quite good results. I feel the need to pull a photo out, so let me have a look…
Here are a few pictures from 2010.
I feel like this post is going a long way away from where it was supposed to be. I’ve talked a lot about how random and made up my shoots are, but then again with my pregnancy project there have been shoots where I knew what I wanted to show.
Don’t be fooled (especially if you want to hire me and now are thinking I’m too risky – come back!) I guess I do plan things to an extent… now I think I am just saying this so you hire me.
No, what I mean to say is I have planned shoots more so with this project. For example: I had a blood test, I want to show that etc. I guess there was a reason why I did improv comedy in London, as much as sometimes I lack confidence I like just seeing what happens and what I come up with.
I did mention in my interview that when I do plan shoots I never like the images, but I guess they provide a starting point.
With shoots if you don’t try then you don’t get – if I don’t do a shoot then I have no pictures to possibly like or dislike. If I do then I might have a shot that I can use or at least have an idea for something to recreate. With this project I took poses/shots that I liked and recreated them later on, especially if one was good but I felt like another one was better. Though towards the end of the project I got more indecisive and often chose two images from shoots – perhaps because I was running out of time to photograph myself pregnant.
Anyways, some of the hashtags are kind of similar to the first image from the series. I had planned for this to be the first image, but I then remembered that I had done the previous shoot and wrote hashtags for it. It was hard knowing what to write for the first one as a lot of it had already been said here. There was a noticeable difference within myself though, especially with feelings of morning sickness beginning to start. I had forgotten that I got food aversions that early.
Everyone always asks about cravings, though I had never really heard about food aversions. I seemed to hate everything I had ever loved – I was really upset about not being able to eat my favourite lunch that I had been eating for YEARS. At one point I could only eat pasta and vegetables for dinner, as everything else made me feel sick. Luckily I could start to eat different things just as the Great Pasta Shortage of 2020 rolled in, otherwise that would have been a very grim time…
It was hard to imagine myself ever being pregnant, let alone imagining myself pregnant during a pandemic, but I guess that’s something I’ll talk about again and again during these posts…
I hope that the project is of interest to people and that it may be helpful in some way – particularly to those who may be pregnant or someone whose partner/close friend/family member is pregnant.
As it will take me some time to post them all, if you wish to read ahead you can see the project on my Instagram account, though at the time of writing this I still have 16 images left to post from the project.
This is the first image from the series.
A couple of outtakes
I’m currently writing this with my newborn daughter (well she is a few weeks old now, when does a newborn stop being a newborn?) lying asleep on me, as represented by the picture above that I took with my phone that then got glitched by Photoshop.
In these pictures I am in shock at being pregnant, whereas now a few weeks into motherhood I am still a bit in shock that I am a mother. Writing a tweet yesterday that started with ‘Had to register my daughter for the doctors’ just felt bizarre…
Anyways, I took a pregnancy test whilst visiting family for a weekend and was not home until the next day. I did the shoot, but then didn’t look at the images for a while which explains not writing the hashtags at the time.
When I found out I was pregnant I was finishing off my project Ulterior Monologue, which was about wanting to be pregnant but not feeling able to talk about it. This was when I first started to do these hashtag diary entries, but with Ulterior Monologue I wasn’t always as honest as I wanted to be because of the awkwardness I felt around talking about wanting to be pregnant – which is where the project title comes from. I felt awkward as we had not been trying that long (it took about 9 months in the end to get pregnant and the doctors say it usually happens by the end of 2 years), but it was the only thing I could think about. We had just moved to Liverpool and I didn’t really know anyone and felt a bit lost. I was also trying to get over the stress of living in London and ended up signing for an online CBT course in anxiety not long before I found out I was pregnant.
With announcing that I was trying to get pregnant I felt like people’s comments would just annoy me and I knew people who had been trying for a long time to get pregnant, and I did not want to upset anyone. I was also worried about not getting offered jobs/being overlooked for work if people knew that I was trying to get pregnant, as they might have assumed that I soon would be.
I did do a couple of shoots after knowing I was pregnant that are part of that Ulterior Monologue; I guess because I knew I wouldn’t be sharing my news anytime soon and so I wanted to have work to post in the meantime. I ended up announcing my pregnancy (on social media anyways) when I was around 20 weeks pregnant and at the point where I felt like I wasn’t cursing myself by saying it out loud to a ‘crowd’. Until then I posted all my self-portraiture projects and video works on Instagram – I have a lot so it definitely passed the time, but I was so fed up of doing it by the end.
The hashtags mention wearing the same dress as an image from Ulterior Monologue which is called It Seems Like Everyone Is Pregnant Except Me. I don’t think I did this intentionally (like the hashtags say), but it’s a nice coincidence. It Seems Like…‘s hashtags talked the most about wanting to be pregnant, but still downplayed it.
The next picture I took for Waiting For Things… was when I was 6 weeks pregnant and after that I really started to document myself – usually at least twice a week. I think being in disbelief and expecting something bad to happen was also a factor in the gap between the first and second images.