Red jelly really is the best kind of jelly; it is sweet and comforting, cold and soft, and best of all, it is as red as watered down blood. My first memories of jelly were of my childhood in the tropics. I don’t remember having jelly there like I’ve experienced it in Britain, but these tropic jellies were manufactured, came in a little pot and sometimes on the way home in the blazing heat, we’d stop at a little roadside shack and buy these sweet pots of sweet jelly. I believe they had fruit in too, and I’ve seen them in Britain before, but they really don’t have the same richness in flavour, my childhood tastebuds and the glorious sunshine to go with them. I have early memories of cutting my teeth into the jelly like into soft flesh or of refusing to break it down with my teeth and letting melting lumps of it slide down my throat, these actions never change and still stay with me today when I eat jelly.
Through photographing gelatin I was accessing something of that gooey mess inside us, the lumps from a period, a miscarriage, or just the placenta. It melted, it stuck together, it formed, it became three-dimensional over time. As I poured evaporated milk over my ‘jelly’ baby, it made me think of childhood memories of jelly and cream, then of a breast, my breasts, how my body seems to want to be filled with milk. Brimming with milk, ready for my child, ready to nourish my baby. No baby. It’s interesting how the white of the breast is inverted, we get to see inside the breast where the blood and flesh lies. The milk ducts still oozing with the milk.
It reminded me of the chemistry of the darkroom: gazing through the red jelly like the filters over the lights, the silver gelatin of the black and white print, it’s reaction to the developer, the fixer and the stopping bath, my milk being run up and down it’s surface, submerged in its own form of amniotic developer, washing it away in its own bath of milk once its born. They are just little touches to the photographic, but enough to let me gently muse over the connections between the darkroom and the maternal.
If the first image is full of life, then the second is lifeless. It moves physically of course, like all jelly does, but it doesn’t have any substance to it. There are no bones in this baby. Not even any calcium to build it up. It just wibbles lifelessly. This image is my fear, my nightmare, a deadness inside me. It’s my womb filled with blood, filled up but with no substance. It’s a womb that no baby would be born out of, just a womb filled with pure clean blood to be released. Popped like a bubble, once a month.
In the bowls, they are ready to eat, like at a children’s summer party; yet the white reminds me of something clinical, the white of hospital bed sheets, the bowl has caught my afterbirth as well as all the amniotic fluid left inside me. The red blood drips into the fluid, bloody milk, milky blood. Body fluids, wibbly wobbly flesh… my baby, that’s what my baby is made of, that’s how my baby will come into the world. I want to sink my teeth into it, let the milk flood into my breasts, mix our blood together so it is one and the same.
In the end we aren’t made of much more than blood and milk (flesh and bones).