An unassuming topic for a photobook and compelling for it, How to walk with a baby is about teenage mums and their babes in arms. A first book for Massey Photography Graduate Mckayla Woodroffe, this publication is set in play through the juxtaposition of quotidian narrative vignettes, archival family album images, and contemporary still life and urban landscape photographs by Woodruff.
It is in most instances a deeply traumatic tale of loss, systemic and societal discrimination, sexism, hard out struggle and family feuding that doesn’t end well. Absent parents die before being reunited with their offspring and mothers are estranged from their children. In Woodruff’s slightly eerie still life images we see snippets of domestic life – stereos are stacked on stereos to form a side table, camelias blighted with brown rot struggle against a corrugated iron fence, a kitchen counter top dissected by a shaft of sunlight is punctuated with spilt milk splatters and an image of a little girl’s dresses pegged on the washing line – images which are openly troubled by these powerful stories of rupture, but also present a monumental strength and perseverance: one can’t put the book down.
In what is surely an autobiographical twist, Woodruff ends the book with reference to a figure who shares her name, and their linking through a fiercely supportive and strong bond between a mother and daughter. One that seems symbolically etched on the cover of the book (a magnolia is embossed here) and on skin via tattoo in a key reverse portrait near the conclusion of the book.