Interview met Oekraïnse fotograve Anastasia Ivashchenko over haar borstvoedingsproject "Mammals"

1.    Could you introduce yourself?
My name is Anastasia Ivashchenko. I am a 38-years-old portrait photographer from Ukraine. It’s a shame that the name of my country is connected now with war, death, and helpless people. But I try not to see myself as just a refugee. I have been living in the Netherlands for around 5-6 months with my family. I  continue to be a photographer of those moments which are really important for people. We share feelings with my models about birth, breastfeeding, postpartum condition of women or being together with a family. I feel respect for people and you can see that in my works.

2.    What is your biggest passion in live?
It’s really difficult to feel passion for everyday life without any decorations. But I try to see life like a process not like a series of results or successes. Laughing children, sunlight in a room, hugging, lying in a bed on a Sunday morning. I try to see something eve when nothing really happens. So the biggest passion of my life is really: people. With all their very special and normal features, the naked reality of everyday life.

3.    What inspired you to create your project “mammals”? 
The motivation of this project was to show also how important breastfeeding is for people.
When my first son was born it destroyed me totally but then step by step a new “me” was born. I was excited about how a child can change my personality. During that time I was a member of a chat group of moms. Here we all tried to survive in a new situation. We shared experiences, ideas and supported each other. One of the moms send a link to a website with a series of breastfeeding photos. Those women were nicely dressed and had flowers in their hair. And I compared their looks to myself. Something was wrong with me - I didn’t have time to do my hair for a few days and I was wearing something cosy but simple. All other moms around me felt the same. That is when I thought: "I want to show all these real breastfeeding women and their beauty". So, I found different situations like twins, different ages of children (from new-born till 3 years old), tandems, etc. 

4.    Why did you choose this name for your project?
I called my breastfeeding project "Mammals" because it shows our nature and our place in the animal world. It sounds like a joke but try to feel it – because in the end: we are mammals.

5.    When did you make the project and how long have you worked on it?
I started my project when my son was 2 months old. Three years later I had an exhibition in a municipal gallery in Kharkiv (Eastern Ukraine). But most photos I did during 6 months before the exhibition.

6.    What was the reason to make a photo project on breastfeeding? What inspired you to do this? 
I hope to give women the feeling that breastfeeding is something that is really worth to do, that it’s a special moment and it’s something we need to save like humans. Nothing can replace it. 

7.    What do you hope to achieve with your photos? And what were the reactions of the public to your exhibition?
Most people were inspired by my photos. A few companies asked to use my photo for making mom friendly face of business. But also it provoked people to feel shame because normally they don’t see women feeding babies with a breast in public places so they have the feeling that this process is something we need to hide. 
For example, I had a conversation with the municipality in Kharkiv about spreading photos in public clinics for women. And they thought the photos shouldn’t appear in public places. In the end, they approved a few photos for clinics. But then I had resistance from medical staff in that clinics. Normally in clinics, we do have frightening posters about different diseases so some of the medical workers were happy to see my photos instead of them. I had a lot of interviews on the radio and in newspapers.

8.    Are you currently working on another project?
Currently, I am working on a new project about women and the differences between bodies. My idea is to make content that can inspire women to live every moment with their bodies, changes which happen during their life, with age and different tasks (puberty, pregnancy, age e.g.).

9.    What are your ambitions for the future? 
My ambition for my professional future is to work in residence for artists who discover femininity. And write a book as a result.




Kijk voor meer werk van Nastya op haar Instagram en website.