Andi Galdi Vinko’s visual handbook on navigating the boundary between motherhood and creativity - Friends of Friends / Freunde von Freunden (FvF)

Photo Essay

Andi Galdi Vinko’s visual handbook on navigating the boundary between motherhood and creativity


Andi Galdi Vinko is an internationally acclaimed artist working in photography. Her works draw visual analogies between intensely personal experiences of womanhood and motherhood, and universal human experiences of coming of age, aging, and loss.

Inspired by her own experience, Andi’s first book, “Sorry I Gave Birth I Disappeared But Now I’m Back,” looks at the relationship between motherhood and creativity and challenges the notion of motherhood as a sweeping, all-encompassing state.

“After graduating, I left Budapest to pursue a career as a photographer. I was living out of a suitcase between London and New York, and my career took off quite quickly. By 2016, I was hailed as this new emerging photographer, My work was published in magazines such as iD, Dazed or the Newyorker. Then life happened. I met my boyfriend, who is now my husband, and we decided we would try for a family. Six months later I was pregnant. This was at a point in my career when I was just on the brink of making it big and then suddenly everything changed. So that was the basic and most fundamental reason for the title of this book and this project—I had to stop living the life I was living and become a new person”

“The last two months of pregnancy I wasn’t allowed to get on a plane anymore and I had to stop working. In the beginning I really enjoyed that. I was like ‘I’m finally going to plant flowers in my backyard’ and I was really happy just doing things around the house. I guess that was all the hormones. ‘There’s a human inside me and It’s amazing—it’s everything.’ Walking down the street I felt like I was levitating, people were smiling at me, everyone was telling me how beautiful I was, and it just felt right. And then, the minute I gave birth it stopped being about me, it was all about the child. I had no idea how much my life would change.”

“I never stopped taking pictures, but after I gave birth I didn’t feel my work had any meaning, because I lost focus. The moment I realized I wanted to make a book came a few months postpartum. I was brushing my hair and I was losing a lot of it. I was really desperate, as I didn’t know what was happening and I was on Google and couldn’t find an answer. I went on this online forum for mothers, and wrote about losing my hair and got hundreds of replies. That’s when I took the photo of the hairbrush and realised I wanted to use my work to help mothers feel that they’re not alone.”

I had this preconception that breastfeeding would come natural to me, that it would be easy. The images I had in mind were of women breastfeeding on a rock, or on a beach or something with perfect bodies and perfect babies. But my nipples were sore and really painful and I was looking for advice online and all the imagery and videos I came across were either very medical or made me feel like I was the only one who didn’t understand how to make it work. And then the more I got to talk to people, the more I realized that it’s not just me, it’s everybody else too. Where is that village that is supposed to raise a child? We don’t have that village anymore. And we are left alone in a world where we are expected to do everything perfectly.”

“I had all these handwritten notes that became very important to me, because they represent those feelings I couldn’t or didn’t want to photograph. I always felt that they were like cave drawings of an actual person who’s lost in becoming a new person, but wants to be reminded of who she was before.”

“I’m a mother but I’m also a human being who has all these thoughts that are totally unrelated to how much I love my child.”

“When I was pregnant with my second child, I watched a lot of Desperate Housewives. I’d never had the time to watch television series before because I was always working, studying, or running around. There’s a moment when one of the characters says “you’re never alone, but you’re always lonely,” and I could relate to that so much. Photography helped me a lot and it’s one of the reasons why I did this whole series. Photography has always been a tool for me to talk about things that matter to me and that resonate with people around me.”

“When I was at home cleaning dummies or changing nappies or whatever, documenting the routine helped me put a rhythm to it and made me feel like I had actually achieved something, that there was an actual proof – maybe even a visible answer – to the ‘what have you done all day?’ type of questions.”

“I wanted this work to be a handbook you can refer to and you can just smile at it and be like, ‘oh I remember that’, or, ‘yeah that was a great moment.’ I didn’t just want to show the struggles, I also wanted to show all the love and affection that comes with it. Because that is also really important. It’s one of the most beautiful things in my life, even though it’s not the only beautiful thing in my life.”

“A lot of photos that I took as documentations of myself just didn’t work for the book, so I re-staged them with friends or their kids. Slowly I had more and more photos and saw what was missing. I started to get a more clear idea of what I wanted to shoot and it became more of an objective collection of things that maybe hadn’t happened to me, but was other people’s experience. The moment I realized the book was ready was when I had my second child and I kind of stopped taking photos of her as I figured I already had that particular image.

Andi Galdi Vinko studied photography at Moholy University of Art in Budapest and at Esag Penninghen in Paris and Art History and aesthetics at ELTE in Budapest. Andi’s work has been published in the New Yorker, M Le Monde, Die Zeit, and i-D amongst others. Her first book, Sorry I Gave Birth I Disappeared but Now I’m Back explores the photographer’s experiences of motherhood and is published by Trolley Books.


Interview and text: Emma Hammar

All images courtesy of Andi Galdi Vinko

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