Graduation Year


Document Type

Open Access Senior Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts


Art History

Reader 1

Julia Lum

Reader 2

Jessica McCoy

Terms of Use & License Information

Terms of Use for work posted in Scholarship@Claremont.

Rights Information

© 2021 Hayley A. Pierpont


Women, particularly mothers, are often made invisible within narratives of their own family and domestic spaces, despite their role as creators and maintainers of those spaces. This perpetuation of invisibility is threaded throughout the history of artistic practices, (photography especially). Contemporary mother-artists Sally Mann and Elinor Carucci confront and unapologetically reflect their singular experience(s) with motherhood through their photography, which addresses the symbiotic dyads of mother-child and mother-artist. This thesis focuses on an analysis of four images: Mann’s The Wet Bed and Lee’s Dirty Hands, and Carucci’s Trying to Protect Emanuelle and I Will Protect You. In both Mann and Carucci’s photography, the image of the child is explicit, but the image of the mother is harder to decipher. The uncanny Victorian era practice of Hidden Mother photography initially inspired this thesis, but it is further informed by iconographic Madonna and child imagery, artistic and maternal labor, Roland Barthes’s concept of the “umbilical cord,” feminist art history, and, theory on the ontology of photography. Photography as a medium has been likened to the maternal, as a vehicle of production and reproduction. This thesis argues that motherhood-as-image is indexical of motherhood-in-practice, developed through a surrogate gaze of the mother specifically created through the use of the camera (lens). Through a contextualization and deep visual analysis of these four photographs, this thesis explores how Mann and Carucci’s artwork uses the child and the camera as a medium to produce images that inflect the mother-artists’ individual maternal experiences.