Updated: Nov 23, 2021
Unbirth of Venus ‘I’ve never wanted children, I don’t think I’m particularly maternal. I love been an Auntie to my little nephew and enjoy time with him but it’s not given me the desire to have my own. To be honest human babies don’t really interest me, happy to have two wonderful cats.’
Justine, 43 The Unbirth of Venus wins 1st Prize in Segregation and Human Rights Category. 17th Julia Margaret Cameron Award 2021. Single image.
Dad's Not the Word wins Honourable Mention in 17th Julia Margaret Cameron Award 2021
Dad's Not the Word
“I had a vasectomy when I was 23. The GP said I would not be allowed. I asked if he would refer me anyway. A letter came and I went excitedly, and never really regretted it. Possible causes do interest me: early trauma, no pull towards a child filled home as safe and desirable. If ‘fully healed’ was ever a thing would the wish appear, or would no appeal persist?” Iain, 42
‘My siblings and I grew up in the shadow of two other siblings who had died before their third birthdays, so our childhood was less than joyous. Having children seemed to have brought our parents only anxiety and grief, and their two surviving offspring paid the price. I never wanted children. If parenthood equals success, then I failed. Yet why is parenthood valued so highly? I see no virtue in inflicting this world of misery upon a child who never asked to be born.’ Malcolm, 69
Installation - Mum's Not the Word - the movie (To be projected onto a bed in a gallery)
Mum's Not the Word - Exhibition Phoenix Art Space Window Gallery. 3 October - 1 November 2020
‘Mum’s Not the Word’ is a collection of 50 photographic images of women who do not have children and their reflections on what this means to them as individuals. Raising questions of identity, social constructs, the concept of what it is to be a woman and how stereotyped behaviour is influenced by various factors both external and internal, such as the expectation around having children and the impact this has in an era of environmental crisis.
Fifty-one Mum's Not the Word and four (now eleven) Dad's Not the Word A4 sized images, handprinted on Fine Art Paper and fixed to the wall by magnets. The linear format display is sequenced by colour palette. Personal statements from the all participants printed on clear acetate and placed next to each image.
Partners Population Matters, shared social media posts about the exhibition in return for gallery space to show a video on the impact over over poplulation and smaller family sizes. Mum's Not the Word participant Melanie Kaley to produced a Mum's Not the Word podcast. Interviewees included Kit Collier Woods - trans MNTW participant, Xanthe Gresham - storyteller and performance artist, Anu Sharma - human rights journalist and Katrina Dixon Population Matters campaigner. Eleven 16-18 year olds from East surrey College visited photography exhibitions Photo Fringe in Brighton and Worthing. The comments and views Mum’s Not the Word content, the from young photography students, of the are weaved into the podcast. The podcast is available as a free resource to the public.
MNTW exhibition was received written reviews from writer Gemma Padley and Photo Fringe trainee curator Vera Hadzhiyska.
When shooting Mum’s Not the Word, Denise Felkin found it challenging to find participants from different ethnic backgrounds. Whereas white women would readily volunteer, she had to go out of her way to include other participants; many said no. Denise Felkin joins Jennie Ricketts, childfree herself, in conversation with Maroussia Mbaye, a photographer who works with women who have experienced unwanted pregnancies in Senegal, West Africa, to discuss cultural expectations of women in society today. Images ©Denise Felkin ©Maroussia Mbaye 2020 #artscouncil#populationmatters#mumsnottheword#photofringe2020#phoenixartspace https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y9ELqJXtqf8&t=14s
"This is an interesting and extremely thought-provoking discussion. I would recommend that anyone and everyone watch it, especially women. There are so many aspects to having or not having children and this can be dramatically different around the world. The discussion touched on quite a few of these and while there was a significant contrast between the two projects, the common theme for me was that both photographers wanted to help women feel valid and improve their self-esteem. Thank you to all involved." Alexia Lazou
Testimonials 2021 I was very pleased to see your book, It’s a wonderful testament to you, the integrity of your work and the bravery / courage of the women to speak out and bare all. It’s actually a very affectionate book, your photographs are so supportive of them, even though some stories are harrowing.
More needs to be said and done about this- it’s almost a taboo subject..
Zelda Cheatle - Expert in Photography
I was particularly interested in you asking the question about the Equality and Diversity Act and whether non-parenthood needs to be included - I feel it absolutely does and that the time has come. The number of non-parents is only going to rise and with the climate change issues which will really start to crunch over the next 20 years, we really need to be able to advocate for our rights too and to have a clear narrative and framework for that - there is hardly even any coherent social languaging around our experience yet, something I have worked on for 10 years now and will continue to do! Jody Day. Founder, Gateway Women
Future Aims To exhibit single images Unbirth of Venus & Dad's Not the Word at Fotonostrum, Barcelona . October 2022 (Confirmed)
To exhibit all content in a US New York Gallery - images, in gallery recorded interviews, moving image, digital zine (TBC) To sell remaining 300 Mum's Not the Word books To develop the moving image idea to be site specific for gallery To continue Mum's Not the Word childfree project To continue Dad's Not the Word to 50 images To photo more people of colour, couples To obtain further funding To create a petition in UK, in order to ammend the Equality & Diversity 2010 law to regardless of family status. To normalise the childfree status