Exploring the pain of miscarrying through powerful portraits and discarded fruit

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“Despite the fact that this loss is common, the silence around it persists,” says Portrait of Humanity Series winner Florence Babin-Beaudry of her project, ‘Products of Conception’

“At eight weeks, the foetus is the size of a raspberry; at 24 weeks, it’s a corncob; at 39 weeks, a watermelon…” These cheerful comparisons, a domain of the pregnancy app, will be familiar to any person who’s ever been pregnant or knows someone who has. They also sit at the heart of Florence Babin-Beaudry’s moving project  Products of Conception, a Portrait of Humanity Series winner. The work explores a common experience that the artist believes is chronically under-discussed: miscarriage.

The Canadian photographer did a degree in Cinema Studies before embarking on a career spanning almost two decades, during which she worked as an art director and scenographer. Four years ago, she decided to study digital photography on a full-time course. “I realised that if I wasn’t going to do it now, I would never do it,” she recalls. “I had been wanting to do this all my life but had never dared.”

Products of Conception

Working in the medium felt natural to Babin-Beaudry, allowing her to combine her proficiency in both documentary and staging approaches. “Photography was always a way to express myself. But, also to talk about social issues and people with realities other than mine,” she says. “I love exploring the human psyche and world in all its dimensions, beauties and ugliness.”

Her commitment to exploring such subjects is evident in her winning series, Products of Conception. The work’s origins are personal: Babin-Beaudry began the project after having a miscarriage herself. “At first, I needed to express myself to channel my emotions,” she says. “But after doing some research, I realised how taboo this subject is and how it affects women in so many ways.”

One in five pregnancies ends in miscarriage; 23 million miscarriages occur annually worldwide. “Despite the fact that this loss is common, the silence around it persists,” Babin-Beaudry reflects. “It’s a grief that is often misunderstood. Many women say it’s a strange feeling of having lost someone without knowing exactly who to mourn.” Some women experience guilt in addition to their grief: guilt for not having succeeded in carrying their pregnancy to term or, conversely, guilt in having hoped that the pregnancy would end spontaneously. These complex feelings perpetuate silence around the experience and a lack of understanding and compassion more broadly.

© Florence Babin-Beaudry, Portrait of Humanity Vol.4 Series Winner.

Each of Babin-Beaudry’s portraits depict one or more women who have had a miscarriage, alongside fruits or vegetables representing the size of the foetus at the time of its loss. The photographs themselves are uncannily glamorous — each woman a kind of actor in a silent production, well-lit and costumed. However, the images’ captions are hard to read. Each of them gestures towards the distress, the longing, the violent bodily reality of miscarriage. “I hope my series will make women feel empowered and beautiful rather than ashamed,” the photographer says. Such is her casting — of these women in these symbolic, professionally-lit scenarios, surrounded by discarded fruit — that the the loss is contained, the chaos clarified. “I hope it will help couples and families to talk more openly,” she goes on.

“I am delighted to have been selected as a winner,” Babin-Beaudry says of her series’ inclusion in Portrait of Humanity’s fourth edition —an award aiming to celebrate the strength and courage that unite us. “I hope this award will help me develop my career at an international level. It’s a great way to have my work seen by a completely different audience.”

Products of Conception will be displayed at Indian Photography Festival as part of Portrait of Humanity 2022. The photographer’s hope is that this work will encourage a broadening of the dialogue around this unique sadness common to so many women.

Portrait of Humanity’s fifth edition is now open for entries until 14th July 2022.


www.florencebabinbeaudry.com

@florencebabinbeaudry

Products of Conception
Products of Conception