Photo book explores the messy, magical mundanity of new motherhood

In honour of Mother’s Day, we revisit ‘Sorry I Gave Birth I Disappeared But Now I’m Back‘ by photographer Andi Galdi Vinko, exploring new motherhood in all its messy, beautiful reality

Images of motherhood: Left-Toddler crawling around a person's legs, Right- Colourful writing- 'Just wanted to write this email'
(Image credit: Andi Galdi Vinko)

‘I didn't have time to prepare for motherhood – not like that’s really possible,’ says Andi Galdi Vinko. ‘I was busy living, loving and building my career. So when the storm arrived I was quite shocked by my vulnerability and my incapacity.’

This opaque sense of shock and quotidian trauma felt to some degree by all new parents has taken shape in Galdi Vinko’s photography book, Sorry I Gave Birth I Disappeared But Now I’m Back, published by Trolley Books. In a visual diary of those early months, the Hungarian photographer juxtaposes the mundane with the momentous in a visual mash-up of everything from stitches to blood, milk and midnight Google searches.

baby at your knees, from a photo book on motherhood by Andi Galdi Vinko

(Image credit: Andi Galdi Vinko)

More figurative imagery sits alongside the photo diary elements in a reflection of the contradictions that define motherhood itself. ‘These contradictions are the ones that made this whole project so exciting,’ Galdi Vinko adds.

‘Whenever I felt like I finally knew something, a new challenge appeared right away. As I write to [arts journalist] Charlotte Jansen in our email exchange in the book: “It is a constant negotiation between your needs and theirs. Between what you think you can do and what you actually are capable of doing.” And also I had to come to terms with the fact that I can't be a perfect mother. I can be my best but that's it.’

newborn baby with balloons

(Image credit: Andi Galdi Vinko)

Galdi Vinko originally began taking the photographs as a touchstone for herself; as the chaos around her found a semblance of order, the images gradually became stylised, imbued with the creativity temporarily eclipsed by new motherhood. ‘I took a lot of photos of my friends’ bodies and babies – I am not a documentary photographer, so I can’t not direct an image,’ she says.

‘The combination of some of the original docu-like photos and the later more abstract versions of either humans or nature was part of the whole storytelling for me. Later, when creating the layout of the book, we also played a lot with the pairing of some of the nature-created abstractions with the honest and raw representation of parenthood.’

pregnant woman in sea

(Image credit: Andi Galdi Vinko)

The images themselves may be unflinching in their examination of both the physical and emotional trauma inflicted by a new baby, but when viewed alongside more traditionally picture-perfect moments – a toddler’s first steps, the glorious thigh rolls of a gurgling baby – they become imbued with sharp bathos.

‘I'm used to always solving every situation and in this one, I just felt like I didn't have the tools,’ says Galdi Vinko. ‘So like always I used my camera to help myself get through the hard times, the questions, the dilemmas. I felt like the way I imagined motherhood was very different from my subconscious influences – mainly paintings of the Madonna, and films done by men. I thought it would be easy. Natural. Like that's the purpose of a woman.’

tree and pregnant belly

(Image credit: Andi Galdi Vinko)

baby in arms

(Image credit: Andi Galdi Vinko)

baby sick

(Image credit: Andi Galdi Vinko)

image of jelly on a pregnant stomach, chronicling birth

(Image credit: Andi Galdi Vinko)

baby looking at nipple

(Image credit: Andi Galdi Vinko)


Sorry I Gave Birth I Disappeared But Now I'm Back, by Andi Galdi Vinko, is published by Trolley Books

Hannah Silver is the Art, Culture, Watches & Jewellery Editor of Wallpaper*. Since joining in 2019, she has overseen offbeat design trends and in-depth profiles, and written extensively across the worlds of culture and luxury. She enjoys meeting artists and designers, viewing exhibitions and conducting interviews on her frequent travels. 

With contributions from