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Nobody’s Child

Words and images by Rowena Meadows

By April 22, 2021June 30th, 2021The Collective

While photographing ordinary scenes of family life over the past five years, I have found myself drawn to depicting children and young people in anonymous ways. 

This process, I suspect started out as a somewhat subconscious and nostalgic desire to create images that allowed me to re-author some of my own childhood experiences. Over time, this work has evolved into a broader acknowledgement of the profound unknowability and mystery of a child’s private inner world.

I wanted to communicate the ways children are able to physically and emotionally fuse with their environments in deeply immersive ways, allowing each image to become more concerned with portraying a magical creature rather than documenting somebody’s child.

By removing the often, binary sentimentality of facial expressions indicating ‘happy’ or ‘sad’, the images rely more heavily on the use of space, gesture, tonality and mood in communicating multiple potential strands of storytelling. 

The faceless images are an invitation to the viewer to insert themselves into the frame of their own real or imagined childhood. They are an opportunity to revisit the fleeting mystery and ambiguity of youth, simultaneously, everybody’s and yet nobody’s child.

Rowena Meadows

Rowena is a psychologist turned documentary and commercial photographer, born with an unavoidable inclination to observe, an intense discomfort with perfection and a desire to understand and deconstruct human identities.

She sees her work with families as an opportunity to reflect, reframe and shift the way they see themselves, both as a system and as individuals. Applying the philosophies of narrative therapy to her work, Rowena seeks to understand and reflect both dominant and previously un-storied aspects of identity. This approach led her to place first in the documentary category of Australia’s Top Emerging Photographers in 2018. She has also had work selected for the Head On Portrait Prize, Australian Photography Awards (Stories, Portrait and Documentary categories), International Documentary Family Awards and This is Reportage Family (International Photographer of the Year, 2020).

Rowena also brings her storytelling skills to a commercial setting, creating relatable and compelling imagery for businesses. She has worked for brands including Medibank, Britax Australia, Jetstar, RACV, Carter Grange Homes and Canon. In 2019, Rowena co-founded Storytellers Photo Conference, an international gathering of the documentary family photography community, taking place in Miami, Florida annually.

Based in Melbourne, Australia.

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