About the belly button / Apie bambą

ABOUT Eye of Photography, photo books are just as important as an exhibition or a portfolio. They make the history and actuality of the medium. Our correspondent Zoe Isle de Beauchaine has a tirelessly curious and informed eye on the latest releases.

Around the belly button by Ieva Stankutë has a special place among recent photographic publications on motherhood. An artist’s book more than a photograph, combining photographs, text and drawings, it gives a personal and universal account of this time in a woman’s life.

Recently published by Kaunas Photography Gallery, Around the belly button was originally the graduation project of Lithuanian photographer, illustrator and graphic designer Ieva Stankutė, shortlisted for the Dummy Book Awards of Rencontres d’Arles 2020. Inspired mainly by children’s books, it is a highly elaborate object, since its cover, which evokes a navel, to the cut, folded or flying pages, the different types of paper and its play with transparency.

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Each chapter opens a new story about motherhood told through a series of photographs: patterns of baby blankets passed down from generation to generation, images stolen from Google Maps of “moments of care” from mother to child, a museum of symbolic objects of motherhood , a repertoire of statues dedicated to the cult of motherhood… Ieva Stankutë also experimented with photography by pouring samples of her life as a mother – breast milk, tears, Smecta, jam, lipstick – onto negatives, creating poetic, micrograph-like images.

The author included cut-out or drawn pages, depicting, through a reference to games and children’s literature, the daily life of a family. For Ieva Stankuta, the mixing of genres was important during the realization of this book: « I didn’t want to put only photos of me and my children, because many things from our experience cannot be expressed only with direct photos. It was interesting for me to express it with photos, but not only. Different elements had to come into play. »

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These images dialogue with a series of texts in which Ieva Stankutė shared memories of the mother figure she has collected from her surroundings, a poem written with words collected from childbirth stories read on the Internet and sometimes songs and poems of marked in random parts. of paper. Further, on several pages sealed with a Japanese-style binder, a text can be seen through the transparency of the paper, detailing the doubts of a mother, omnipresent and often buried.

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The book’s chapters are punctuated with photographs of mothers with their children, mostly archival images. One holds her baby in her arms, while another, exhausted, sleeps behind her baby, who sits proudly on the floor. A series of navels, the origin of life, closes the book.

Around the belly button is a sensitive tribute to motherhood and childhood, from the poetry of intimacy to the frustrations of parenting and the carelessness of play. With multiple hand-crafted pages, making each book a unique piece, this work brilliantly rethinks the documentary perspective through a multidisciplinary artistic approach.

Ieva Stankuté – About the belly button / Apie bambą
Published by Kaunas Photography Gallery
2022, 22 x 18 cm
Available in bookstores and online


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