Xenia and I met when I lived in Denmark. I just started a new phase in my artistic practice where I decided to document motherhood, just as I experienced and felt it. I often pointed the camera at myself, so when I met Xenia and felt a special and intimate connection, we decided to do this project together. I first photographed her when she was almost 9 months pregnant, and then again when her child was born and lastky when her son was 9 months old. During our meetings, and whilst we were shooting, we spent most of that time talking. Being two different people, the rawness of motherhood connected us in a very special way. Xenia opened up to me, and I to her, about the vulnerability and loneliness motherhood brings; it transformed who we were and took a new shape: our physical bodies, our faces, our energy level, our ability to love, our fear of what is yet to come. The overwhelming mix of fierce love, an otherworldly need to protect our child, deep sadness for the loss of the self, the tiredness, the hunger, the mirror reflection of a body that is not yours but a new form that you will have to get to know and love. And in your arms a child whom is now a part of that self. Needless to say, Xenia and I spoke about all this. I let her wander at the beach, or in the garden in her parent’s home, and took photos as we took breaks from our conversations. Xenia is just like these photographs; brave, powerful, soft, honest, unfiltered and with a beauty that goes beyond tired eyes, a mothers belly after birth and breast filled with milk.
Emma Hartvig is an artist who works in photography. Precise and poetic, her practice elucidates themes of womanhood, performance and desire – and, with a quiet but powerful perceptiveness, the points at which those themes intersect.
Meticulous and intuitive in her approach, the artist draws scenes from the interactions between different figures, pinpointing moments of stillness, tension, intimacy or love in an assemblage of moving parts. Consequently, her photographs are at once dynamic and tranquil, compelling and cinematic. The possibility of conjuring emotion and story from a gesture, movement or scene underpins every image she makes. Through her lens, the body is a moving sculpture, a vessel to be filled with ideas and emotions. To that end, she often works with self-portraiture, manipulating and documenting her own form as a means of telling stories.
Since starting her own family a couple of years ago, these stories have often been connected to motherhood; she photographs herself with her children, and other women with theirs. But in her work, this is a concept which expands beyond the traditional mother-child relationship, to comprise intimacy, sensuality, nature, strength and hope. Her works interrogate the emotional evolution which accompanies the process of becoming a mother; a time of raw, unfiltered feeling; a transformation of sexuality and the relationship with the self; and a new respect for the physical body, in all of its strength, exhaustion and beauty. In photographing collected groups of mothers, she invites the viewer to step into an almost mythical alternate world – one which is omnipresent, strange, performative and personal.
Emma Hartvig was born and raised in a coastal town in Sweden. She studied Photography at the University of the Arts, London, and has since lived in Berlin, Paris and Copenhagen, before settling in Vienna, where she is currently based. Her work has been published in the Hatje Cantz Verlag-published The Swimming Pool in Photography and Rizzoli’s Pools.