A portrait series captures the challenges and joys of single-parent families

Holding the baby chronicles the resilience of single parents as they navigate the difficulties posed by austerity here in the UK

Hope and resilience found the lens of photographer Polly Braden as she chronicled single parenthood in the face of one of the most pressing issues of our time – austerity.

Framing a topic that could have descended into mawkish sentimentality or greyscale pessimism, Braden’s latest exhibition, Holding the Baby, instead records poignant moments in sunlight-dappled gardens, tender beach scenes, warm smiles and vibrant colour.

“After becoming a single parent myself, I started to explore some of the prejudices leading to policies that scrutinise and punish the parent who has stayed,” said Braden.

Sally Williams, a journalist, collaborated with her to examine the daily life of seven single-parent families. They include foster care Caroline who became a parent using a sperm donor and Jahanara who suffered from an abusive marriage but is now making a new start in engineering studies.

‘The people I’ve met in the making of this work constantly show their sense of adventure,’ says Braden

Braden’s photos are complemented by a word collage from fiction writer Claire-Louise Bennett, who asked single parents to reflect on their most treasured possessions.

“The people I’ve met in the making of this work constantly show their sense of adventure, and their resilience transcends the often-difficult situations they face,” added Braden.

Holding the Baby will be at Bristol’s Arnolfini from 19 February 2022.

Main image: Jana with her children, one of the parents in the exhibition. Credit: Polly Braden