Andi Gáldi Vinkó’s Confronting Pictures of Early Motherhood

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Sorry I Gave Birth I Disappeared But Now I’m Back Andi
Sorry I Gave Birth I Disappeared But Now I’m BackPhotography by Andi Gáldi Vinkó

Andi Gáldi Vinkó’s debut photo book, Sorry I Gave Birth I Disappeared But Now I’m Back, aims to break down motherhood’s taboo status in the art world

In 2019, Andi Gáldi Vinkó was among a group of artists to feature in Birth at TJ Boulting in London, an exhibition examining the topic’s absence in contemporary art. “It meant a lot,” she says today. “That exhibition really made me think about how people need to see different versions of motherhood.” In the company of established names like Paula Rego and Agnés Varda, the exhibition offered Gáldi Vinkó reassurance in a subject she had begun exploring two years earlier, which peers at the time had referred to as a phase.

“Remember that movie, Look Who’s Talking? In my head that was motherhood,” she continues, alluding to the scant representation motherhood has typically received in contemporary culture, often engineered by men or presented in ways that don’t correlate with reality. With her debut monograph, Sorry I Gave Birth I Disappeared But Now I’m Back, the Hungarian photographer joins a growing movement of artists and writers determined to resolve the erasure of this universal but strangely underrepresented experience.

“I didn’t prepare [for motherhood],” recalls Gáldi Vinkó. “I don’t think you can.” Instead, she approached this new stage as she does all situations strange or challenging, and used her camera. The first of her friends to experience pregnancy, the book was part-conceived as a response to feeling disconnected. “There’s this quote, it takes a village to raise a child, but our society is not living in villages; we don’t have communities. It was hard, but the more I spoke about specific things, the more I realised others had the same questions. There’s still lots of taboos, unspoken topics, that everyone just expects you to know.”

Shaped not only by its subject but the photographer’s obligation as an artist, the book poses questions and nurtures ideas about a life left behind. Pairing scenes from nature with images of bodily fluids and baby portraits beside scribbled declarations, spreads reflect on the sometimes raw, often inconsequential but nonetheless significant aspects of early motherhood. “I realised early there were things that seemed important, but that a week later you don’t remember,” she explains. “It was important to keep a memory of those things, because when you’re in them, they really do matter. So to have a book you could open any time and be like, ‘it’s not just me, I’m not the one doing things wrong’ was the main idea.”

By the time she had her second child in 2020, Gáldi Vinkó was no longer so alone, and consequently, the series is a mix of self-portraits and photographs of her friends in Hungary. “They love posing for me. They posed in their twenties, they’re posing in their thirties, and I love the idea that they’re ready to pose when they’re 40,” she says, emphasising that this project was a more challenging endeavour than earlier collaborations. “There’s a lot of cracked nipples, skin, bellies, stuff you don’t want to show, so I really made sure it’s not about one person. If there’s a face, it’s mine.”

Named after an email she sent just a few weeks postpartum, the project’s title speaks to the misogyny Gáldi Vinkó has been privy to throughout her life. “I’ve always been apologising for being a girl,” she reflects. “For doing things people didn’t expect, being smart, funny … And when it came to giving birth, I actually sent out that email. ‘Sorry, I gave birth’. You’re expected to be back on track a second after you give birth and it’s not normal. Your whole fucking life changes, and I don’t think you ever go back.” 

Indeed, her forthcoming work will continue to consider this lived female gaze and its significance in motherhood she says, while interrogating urgent issues like the climate crisis and how one engages as a parent, are new priorities. “The other day my older daughter asked, ‘Are me and my sister going to be running from fire?’ How should I answer this? ‘Probably you are, but you’re only four years old.’ I feel like no one talks about this, how hard it is for a parent to pretend life’s okay when it’s not; to be climate and news aware with your children around. Those are my new conflicts.” 

Sorry I Gave Birth I Disappeared But Now I’m Back by Andi Gáldi Vinkó is out now.