Arnolfini is presenting Holding the Baby, an exhibition of new photographic work by artist Polly Braden, creating an intimate, participatory portrait of the strength and resilience of single parent families with the challenges they face.
Originally created by Museum of the Home, London (and curated by Sinéad McCarthy), this final instalment of the series (following shows in London and Liverpool) brings Bradens poignant photography to Bristol. Exploring just some of the many stories captured along the way, the Bristol version includes participants from the city, transforming national politics into a local concern.
Inspired by a United Nations report by poverty expert Philip Alston in 2019, which stated that single parents have been hardest hit by austerity measures in the UK, Braden has been working with a number of single parents over the last two years, including Fran, Jahanara, Charmaine, Aaron, Barbeline, Caroline, Gemma, Carike and their families to represent each of their stories photographically; encapsulating their sense of adventure, optimism, creativity, ambition and resilience that transcends, the often difficult, situations faced.
Their intimate stories are accompanied by revealing and tender excerpts from interviews with the women conducted by journalist Sally Williams, alongside reflective words from a wider group of single parents instigated by writer Claire-Louise Bennet, and data from statistician Rob Minto outlining the daunting reality of what it means to be a single parent in the UK today.
The project has collaborated with selected public institutions and partners including Museum of the Home, The Idea Store, Whitechapel; Mildmay Library, Islington, The Hive, Shropshire, Liverpool Libraries and Baraka Community Café.
The project has received funding from Arts Council England and Grain and is a part of Behind The Door, a collaboration between Museum of the Home and the London Homelessness Collective. It has been supported by:
Gingerbread, a charity supporting single parent families to live secure, happy and fulfilling lives, offering information, support and advice about contact, maintenance and benefits.
CPAG (Child Poverty Action Group) who work on behalf of the more than one in four children in the UK growing up in poverty.
Polly Braden Holding the Baby is open Tuesday to Sunday, 11am to 6pm each week, entry is free and will be bookable in advance via arnolfini.org.uk
Polly Braden is a documentary photographer whose work features an ongoing conversation between the people she photographs and the environment in which they find themselves. Highlighting the small, often unconscious gestures of her subjects, Braden particularly enjoys long-term, in-depth collaborations that in turn lends her photographs a unique, quiet intimacy. Braden has produced a large body of work that includes solo exhibitions and magazine features, but most recently three books: Londons Square Mile: A Secret City with text by historian David Kynaston (2019), Out of the Shadows: The Untold Story of People with Autism or Learning Disabilities (2018) alongside the writer Sally Williams and Adventures in the Lea Valley (2016). She works on long-term, self-initiated projects, as well as commissions for international publications. Her book China Between, is published by Dewi Lewis, 2010, a selection of her work from China is included in the book Street Photography Now published by Thames and Hudson 2010. In recent years she has collaborated with journalists to produce extended photo-essays in the UK, the Middle East, Morocco, Kenya and China. Her photography has appeared in The Guardian, The Saturday Telegraph magazine, Foto8, Portfolio, ICON, Photoworks & Frieze.
Braden teaches regularly at The University of Westminster and London College of Communication (LCC). She taught photography at Xiamen University during a residency at the CEAC (Chinese European Art Centre) and at Kunming University during a residency at 943 studio. She is a winner of the Jerwood Photography Prize, 2003 and The Guardian Young Photographer of the Year, 2002. She has exhibited at venues internationally including the Institute of Contemporary Arts (ICA) 2005, the Museum of Contemporary Photography, Chicago 2006, Format International Photography Festival 2011, The Museum of London 2011, Krakow Photomonth, Alias, 2011, Minnie Weisz Gallery 2011, London festival of Photography 2011, London Gallery West, 2009, and the Hua Gallary, London 2012. She is winner of the Joanna Drew Bursary 2013 and is nominated by Hundred Heroines 2020.