P. D. A.

Clare Yow
Clare Yow responds to the argument that public breastfeeding is somehow indecent by creating this series of stark, simple images of women breastfeeding their children. The women, all photographed in the same setting and lighting conditions, look directly into the camera and at the viewer.
Aimee and Amedeo


There are numerous cultural and social apprehensions surrounding the act of nursing in a public setting. In fact, recently there was an uproar on Facebook when the website banned profile images of women breasfeeding, deeming them to be of a sexual nature and breaking the website’s rules. I’ve also heard of several instances of nursing mothers being told to “cover up” or move elsewhere because of purportedly indecent exposure. It was empowering for me to hear that women were standing up to these unreasonable constraints on a grand scale, by intentionally employing depictions of their nursing as their online avatars, or gathering in specific public sites for mass-breastfeeding events.

The dialogues stemming from their protests were exceptionally powerful. I felt that as a young woman who had not yet experienced motherhood, it was still necessary, as an image-maker, to add my voice to the conversation. My aim was to depict an act of affection that is inherently organic, beautiful, and unique to each mother and child(ren) pairing. To me, the vulgarity is lacking. A strong desire for my audience to be immediately confronted with and compelled to reflect and perhaps, re-think their stance on the nature of this motherly act, was a driving force behind this work.

I asked the mothers to look directly into the camera and I feel that this eye contact invites the viewer into the work, urging them to not shy away from the subject matter and the highly personal act that they bear witness to. I understand that there are social apprehensions surrounding breastfeeding, particularly in certain venues – but these images are largely of bonding and nourishment. The images make visible both the act of breastfeeding and the individuals who partake in it, and who are directly affected by conservative viewpoints on breastfeeding.

The women in my images were all locals from Toronto, Ontario and were strangers to me when we met for our photo session. I appreciate their openness, honesty, and bravery for letting me document and share in their private moment.

About The Artist 

Clare Yow explores contesting notions of authenticity and conditions of in-between-ness, as they relate to gendered, racialized, and transnational, immigrant subjectivities. She is invested in how these elements can manifest in ideas surrounding memory and experience, embodiment and consumption, and labour and loss. Working across a variety of mediums including photography, installation, and performance, Clare's art practice has been foregrounded in the application of the everyday and the seemingly unremarkable as subject matter, material, and process. She holds an MFA in Visual Art from the University of British Columbia and an Honours BFA in Photographic Studies from Ryerson University. Born in Singapore and mostly raised in the Toronto area, Clare lives and works in Vancouver. Learn more at www.clareyow.com .