Today, around 1.8 million single parents exist in the UK, making up nearly a quarter of all British families, and around 90 per cent of these are women. Through personal stories, portraits and interviews conducted during a year-long participatory project, photographer Polly Braden highlights the day-to-day reality of seven of these single-parent families.
Holding the Baby is an empowering new body of work from the documentary photographer, which will go on show at the Museum of the Home in London this May (Covid restrictions permitting) before touring to Open Eye Gallery, Liverpool and Arnolfini, Bristol.
It's part of the Museum's Behind The Door campaign in partnership with the London Homelessness Collective, which challenges the perception of what homelessness means for women and families and is raising funds to help change their lives, through creative, community and frontline activity.
Created through a collaborative process based on photographs and interviews by the esteemed journalist and writer Sally Williams, 'Holding the Baby' features women like Jahanara, who left an abusive arranged marriage and now has a place to study design engineering at university, and Caroline, a foster carer who chose to become a single parent without a partner via sperm donor. It's a project that tells the diverse stories of their home lives. "Despite the economic pressures, beneﬁt sanctions, difﬁculty ﬁnding affordable childcare and ﬁnancial hardship, these single parents nonetheless succeed in creating a sense of home and belonging," says the Gallery.
The exhibition will also include a word collage by ﬁction writer Claire-Louise Bennett. Following a call-out to single parents asking them to reﬂect on their immediate surroundings and their favourite possessions in their home, Bennett will feature their words alongside black and white portraits of objects of signiﬁcance, taken by Braden.
"After becoming a single parent myself I started to explore some of the prejudices leading to policies that scrutinise and punish the parent who has stayed," says Braden. "The people I’ve met in the making of this work constantly show their sense of adventure and their resilience transcends the often difﬁcult situations they face."
More information on the exhibition and the Museum of the Home’s reopening can be found on the Museum of the Home website: museumofthehome.org.uk.