The images comprising Selina Ou’s most recent series, Neighbourhood Tales, have moved away from the subject of work to a more personal space – one where motherhood and the making of art coexist. The fact that the mother of the children in these images is the person behind the lens brings a complex bundle of emotions to these photographs – a whirling dervish of intense love, longing, anxiety and anticipation of futures and possibilities yet unknown. In several of the works, Ou’s young sons stand at the boundary of the environment they find themselves in – staring into an empty soccer pitch or vacant amphitheatre, at a skate ramp devoid of skaters, or at the edge of a new housing estate under construction. The sense of the subjects being at a precipice in these images, and the tension of what lies beyond that invisible threshold is palpable. The artist-mother’s hope for their futures charges the stillness of these spare and beautiful photographs. Will they find a space of acceptance or rejection, a place of community and belonging? Will their cultural heritage prove a hurdle? Will they be touched by the violence of society?
Will they be safe, and loved? And yet, as both mother and image-maker, these photographs also capture exquisite moments of childhood, with its ‘first times’, its boredom, its frustrations, joys, and surprises. This is a place she can’t be part of, but can only support, nourish and observe.
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