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Shall I be mother?, 2008

by Mark Tedeschi

National Photographic Portrait Prize 2009 Finalist

Shall I be mother?, 2008

This apparently conservative, traditional family unit is in fact all one person, my lifelong friend, Josie McSkimming. I used Josie as my model, as I felt that she could transcend the gender and age differences. This is probably because Josie is a social worker and counsellor who has worked for more than 20 years with families and couples. Many of her clients are dissatisfied with the defined roles in their lives and want her help in breaking out of them. During the shoot, she was more concerned about bridging the age gap than the gender gap, which I thought said something about her. She was flattered when I said that she made a very handsome man. The image is an exploration of the interchangeability and fluidity of gender and age roles. The image also refers to the trend in modern western societies towards 'families' of one, in which an individual has more freedom of choice over gender and age related identity issues. The question 'Shall I be mother?' is a wordplay on the phrase used when one person (often a male) is offering to serve tea to a group. This mocking distortion of the traditional English tea ceremony epitomises the modern day battleground over gender identity and roles.

Other NPPP photos from Mark Tedeschi