Alina Pullen

Alina Pullen is a motherhood photographer based in SE London. She is a daughter of a photographer and a mother herself.

After becoming a mother, Alina has found herself in a very dark and lonely place. The images that reflected motherhood around looked polished and fresh, full of blissful scenes of smiling new mothers bonding with their newborns. In only two years, Alina Pullen has received recognition for her motherhood work from Photo Vogue with over 50 works published, LensCulture Critics review and has helped dozens of mothers to see themselves and their motherhood in a different light. Here is Alina’s account of why she chose to become a motherhood photographer:

“In 2021, after becoming a mother, I suddenly found myself completely blindsided by what motherhood is/should be like. My Instagram and Pinterest feeds were full of thin sporty women giving advice on postpartum weight-loss, tips on quick toning of the sagging abdominal muscles and “miracle” ways of healing diastasis recti in 28 days (of exercise). Bloggers, broadcasting the effortlessness of their motherhood journey; public figures raising awareness to maternal mental health while seeming to completely have it all together themselves; hundreds of women swarming in the comments to posts about how they do practically everything and all while working full time (more than one job sometimes!), raising 2+ children, and, of course maintaining a healthy life style.

The pressure was immense. I didn’t feel a single positive thing — not about my body, mind or my abilities as a mother. I felt alone. I felt like I am a massive failure in all ways — some that I never knew even existed. What’s more, I didn’t know how many women, mothers, feel the same way.

Then I thought, how is it possible that so many mothers are feeling bad about themselves and struggling, while seemingly everyone else around them is telling a different story about motherhood.

In culture, polictics, art, films, and literature are historically narrated by men, mothers, already lacking representation as women, are sidelined by society even further. Women are penalised for becoming mothers, not only by socio-economic hurdles, but by the conflicting expectations: having to take care of children and work full time, participate in children’s extracurriculars and to make time for self-care and appearance, to be a role model in the community and a exceptional homemaker. Women find themselves crumbling under this weight in their fourth trimester, with the stigma of “perfect” motherhood taking away any opportunity to speak and share their real experience.

For my own sake, I took the step to show my body and my postpartum, with the pain and struggles of post-cesarean recovery, breastfeeding, and body dysphoria. I took several self portraits with my baby (first four photograph of the series), to work through my feelings and pain.

For me, matrescence is not only about the joy and bliss of bonding with a newborn/infant, it is first of all the process of mourning the person the now mother once was. There is a lot of stigma and social pressure around the idea of gratitude and happiness children and motherhood should bring to one, so mothers are socially not allowed to express true, sometimes negative, emotions about their experience. Mothers are bearing the responsibility of leading their family by example, while dealing with peer pressure and the culture of toxic positivity – so well utilised by marketing agents telling the mothers how they “should” be.

Furthermore, there is a significant amount of guilt that prevents mothers from talking about their feelings because, in the eyes of peers, this could devalue the pain and suffering of those who are not able to conceive, have experienced miscarriages or lost babies.

To society, the act of putting on a good face is more important than the struggles and mental health of a mother. If you ask any mother she will always say that she would do it all again, however painful, difficult, lonely and exhausting motherhood can be — the life created is always worth it. And this is exactly what I want to show: the array of raw emotions from negative to positive – but real and free, without devaluing the experience of a mother.

The truth of matrescence is in the newness: pain and joy, going hand in hand — love for the new life and mourning for the life that’s no more — the individual, who is now gone, but yet is more than just that — a mother.”


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