2010

This research investigates and engages with the layers of intervention involved in Nepali women seeking biomedical care during pregnancy and childbirth, through the agency of photography, interviews and participant observation. Documenting the layers of medical intervention in this manner allows for a cultural critique of how such immense social change, visible in the statistical analysis of maternal health indicators, is playing out on a micro level. This research engages with the women who have gained enough social capital to influence birthing practices both in biomedical intervention and social practice. This research is based on photographic documentation and participant observation conducted with women either in the process of birth or afterwards whose survival is due to the assistance they have received. This exegesis outlines the contextual elements surrounding my photographic work, discussing the challenges and opportunities of cross-cultural visual documentation. Placing the research within the political and historical environment of Nepal, the paper outlines the narratives that Nepali women become entrapped in. The particular history of the state of Nepal’s maternal healthcare, and how women have played an integral role in its changing state will be discussed. Considering the visual portrayal of maternal health worldwide, both in photojournalistic photographic essays and more commercial outputs, there seems to be a growing voice for the plight of women during childbirth and pregnancy. This paper will shape where this visual research may sit within that expanding chorus of ideas and voices. It will discuss the employment of both traditional and new media documentary methodologies to create novel ways of engaging with the topic of maternal mortality; in particular, looking at ways of creating a visual representation of women in Nepal that neither glazes over their challenges nor ignores their abilities