Birth Rites Collection

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Therese in Ecstatic Childbirth

Hemione Wiltshire, 2008, Digital Print, 50 x 65 cm


For this work Hermione Wiltshire spent time observing the preparation of expectant parents at birth workshops given by the President of the National Childbirth Trust, Gail Werkmeister. Here Hermione witnessed the anxieties and hopes of parents-to-be. She became very aware of the prevalence of negative images of birth. She says, “My work often reflects my interest in images that are politically charged. I am particularly interested in the cultural anxiety around images of crowning. [This] moment … is seen as shocking, stimulating the same response as a pornographic image.” Such images of crowning were not used in Gail’s workshops because she believed their impact was distressing. At Matrix, a Birth Rites forum, Gail asked the audience, “should I traumatise them?” Instances like these have been occurring since the beginning of the project, where those involved reassess how they work and why. In response to this research Hermione chose to present what she believes is the answer to Gail’s dilemma; she presents Ina May Gaskin’s image of a woman crowning in ecstatic childbirth.