What comes to mind when you think about breastfeeding? Do you imagine a serene, goddess-like mother who breastfeeds without assistance? Or do you focus on the countless viral moments of women being shamed for nursing in public?
Here's another question: Does your image of breastfeeding include a pump or a freezer full of breastmilk?
For many women, technology plays a critical role in keeping their infants fed and helping them go back to work. But most people tend to leave out these tools when they think of breastfeeding. This perception — that motherhood must be an effortless, natural endeavour — is exactly what photographer and mother Leah DeVun aims to counteract in her series In The Age Of Mechanical Reproduction.
"There’s an enormous amount of judgment in all the different ways women parent, but especially with breastfeeding," DeVun tells Refinery29. "People are really invested in the decisions women make about what to do with their bodies and the effect it has on their children."
Her photos show women pumping breastmilk in a matter-of-fact way. There's nothing performative or grim about how the women are depicted — they're simply mothers "being very straightforward, doing a straightforward thing," DeVun says. She hopes that her photos contribute to the growing outcry against mom-shaming by showing that there is no right or wrong way to breastfeed your baby.
In terms of the public's response to her images, DeVun says many have applauded her efforts to broaden representations of motherhood. However, others have focused on what she calls the "ick factor," or the fact that the photos are definitely NSFW. That kind of reaction may miss the point of her work, but DeVun believes it still helps to start a larger conversation about what we expect of mothers. "Even though people have very contrasting and very emotional opinions about the images, I think it’s a really important conversation to have and be having in public," she says.
Ahead, check out a selection of In The Age Of Mechanical Reproduction.