Residencies and commissions

Royal Brompton commission,

July 2017

 
Photographing Sabrina, Brighton MET, 2017

Photographing Sabrina, Brighton MET, 2017

Sabrina and Isabelle, The Royal Brompton cafe (picture courtesy of Karen Janody)

Sabrina and Isabelle, The Royal Brompton cafe (picture courtesy of Karen Janody)

In 2016 I visited Rose Ward at Royal Brompton Hospital to see the incredible work taking place to save the lives of babies born with heart defects. Often these babies are born straight into surgery and the mothers, having given birth, can only wait for the long hours that follow, before learning the outcome. These mothers are supported through this time with advice on how to best increase the chances for their child and one of the major initiatives is to encourage breastfeeding. Visiting the tiny room set aside for mothers to express, I came to understand how transformative art could be in this space, where women are alone, sometimes only a few hours after birth, dutifully expressing milk for their child's recovery.

Together with the team at rb&hArts, the department that manages and promotes the arts at the Hospital, we talked about how best to identify a mother to photograph for this space. Working with the breastfeeding nurse, we gave out cards to prospective mothers and this outreach paid off when Sabrina Byrne, mother to six month old Isabelle volunteered to be photographed at my City College studio in Brighton. Traveling from Southend on Sea, to participate in Holding Time on the very last day of shooting, Sabrina and Isabelle are an amazing climactic end to the many inspiring portraits that make up this body of work. 

Isabelle was born with cystic fibrosis, a disease that can affect the lungs but also digestive system and pancreas as well. In Isabelle's case, having CF made it impossible for her body to store the nutrients in her food. However, she did not lose weight or show any of the expected outward signs and this is entirely due to the love and devotion of her mother who was feeding her hourly. This constant stream of highly nutritious food was keeping Isabelle alive, even allowing her to gain weight despite the seriousness of her condition. Once identified, her feeding needs are now more under control as she has a drug before every meal that enables her body to store nourishment. 

For Holding Time, the preparation and dosing of this drug was captured along with the ultimate goal of a breastfeed. This animated sequence will feature in the  Holding Time animation and a still portrait will be placed in honour of Sabrina and all the mothers like her, in the small expressing room on Rose Ward at Royal Brompton Hospital. 

I just enjoyed sitting there getting lost in feeding her, which is why this holding time project appealed to me so much I’m so happy to of been apart of it, it’s been an extremely hard time and taking part in this has been a pleasure and helped me personally.
— Sabrina Byrne, May 2018