Photographer Marta Giaccone wasn't looking for teen mothers when she went to Great Britain.
She was in South Wales to pursue a master's degree in documentary photography and was uncertain what kind of project she was going to pursue in the meantime. When she realized all the teenage girls with babies she would see around town were not babysitters or older sisters, but rather young mothers, she was fascinated.
"I come from Italy, a country where traditionally, women have children a bit later on in life," she told Refinery29. "I just actually never thought about young motherhood." Giaccone began by approaching young women on the street, asking if they were the mothers of the young children with them and whether they would be willing to be photographed. Later, she would find other mothers via local play groups.
"It was the first time for me to talk to young mothers. It was really interesting. It was like a new world that I had never contemplated," she said. She asked the young women to pose with their children in their own homes, in ways that made them comfortable.
Many of the young women were worried about the stigma surrounding teenage mothers, a stigma that Giaccone tried to challenge: "I just want to show that you're a responsible person, you're a mature mother." While rates of teen pregnancy have been dropping in recent years, Wales and England still experience an average pregnancy rate of 24.5 per thousand. Still, it's significantly lower than the American rate of 26.5 per thousand.
The subjects, many of whom prefer to remain anonymous for privacy, were photographed in Newport and Cardiff, in Wales. It's been two years since Giaccone took the photos and she hopes to go back to revisit the women soon. The babies are growing up quickly. Ahead, Giaccone shares their powerful stories.
This article was first published December 17, 2015.