Skip to main content

The Holding Place
Emma O’Brien

The Holding Place

The Holding PlaceThe Holding Place
Emma O’Brien


52 Pages
220 x 280mm
ISBN Not Available


While balancing unpaid emotional and domestic labour with full-time paid work, Emma O’Brien placed her photographic practice on hold. It was an indulgence she couldn’t afford, Motherhood demanded this sacrifice.   As her child grew, influenced by Matricentric Feminism,  working with a feminist concept of intersubjectivity, “how to care for another and one’s self”, she began carving the time to explore her role as mother and artist. Photographing her every day, including smart phone archival images, Emma celebrates mothering and calls out motherhood.

The Holding Place is a meditation on the physical, psychological and political landscape of Motherhood.  The small world that is inhabited, the recurring daily routines, the scant time available, and the intimacy of the mother-child relationship all shape the work. Feminism has changed women’s life outside the home, but little has changed inside the home. In her work the personal and political blur,  she hints at her simmering rage and frustration borne by the imbalances of motherhood while also proclaiming her contradictory feelings of love and devotion. She aims to show the value of caring and nurturing while exposing the patriarchal capitalist structures that impose an experience of entrapment on mothers.  The work reveals that while motherhood undoubtedly gives something, it also takes something valuable away.

About the Artist
Emma O’Brien is a graduate of The Griffith College BA in Photographic Media. Her photographic practice is concerned mainly with themes of family childhood and home. Documenting the personal and the private, domestic landscapes, rural life, small towns and neighbourhoods. Her recent work seeks to make sense of the challenges a working mother faces; While mothering a young child, balancing unpaid emotional and domestic labour with paid work, she abandoned her photographic practice. As her child grew she began to explore the role of mother as artist and redefined her practice.  Turning her camera on her child she documents their everyday life. Her work recognises and amplifies the notion that a mothers lived experience is a valid area of artistic inquiry. She aims to continue exploring the changing roles and cultural expectations placed on mothers through the 20th and 21st Century in future work.  A career in Social and Community work informs her practice as she has a strong sense of ethics and works collaboratively with her subjects.

Leave a Reply