Young Motherhood began in 2013, when Jendella Benson began photographing and interviewing women she knew who had had children at an age that society deemed “too young.” Having grown up with and around young mothers herself, she was no stranger to the complex realities of their lives and their admirable achievements despite the perceived disadvantages, but she was aware that the existing narrative in popular culture was one about young promiscuous and irresponsible women who, in the UK, where she lives, have children for the government benefits that they will receive.

Young Motherhood was birthed out of a desire that Benson had to see that narrative forcefully challenged, and also the desire to celebrate and encourage other young women who find themselves in similar situations. After one of her friends struggled with leaving her abusive partner for fear of the added stigma of being a “single mother” as well as a “young” one, Benson wanted to create a project that would show her, as well as any other young women feeling pressured by their situation, that not only had other women survived similar situations, but they had also thrived.

Over the course of eight months, Benson interviewed and photographed women that she knew with their children, eventually branching out to photograph and film other women she met through recommendations or social media. She collected their stories into a book, published in 2017, titled Young Motherhood: The Triumphs, The Challenges, The Truth. Existing visual projects addressing this topic often approach the women with a lens of voyeurism or pity, compounding the bleak narrative that makes tabloid headlines and creates scapegoats out of young mothers and their children. But Young Motherhood is an unapologetic celebration of women who have succeeded despite the grim pronouncements of society, raising children and creating lives that they can, and should, be proud of.

“It was one of the women in the project who helped me understand that young motherhood is stigmatized because people fear young female sexuality.”

Benson shares insights on her work in an interview with Natasha Vianna, cofounder of #NoTeenShame.

How to View Young Motherhood

During the day, Young Motherhood can be viewed on monitors inside the ICP Museum and during evening hours, images are literally “projected” onto the windows of the ICP Museum; they can be viewed from the sidewalk outside the Museum and are most visible after sunset. Learn more about Projected.

About the Artist

Jendella Benson is a British-Nigerian photographer, filmmaker, and writer based in London. Her work has appeared in The Guardian, BuzzFeed, and MTV News UK, among many others. She is a TEDx speaker and has also spoken at Oxford University, King’s College, and guest-lectured at the University of East London, and appeared as a guest on BBC Radio 4. She is represented by Juliet Pickering at Blake Friedmann.

TOP IMAGE: © Jendella Benson