You’ll Know It When You Feel It
It’s hard to celebrate a birth when you know what’s coming. Still, Rowrow smiled as she lay in a hospital bed, 38-weeks pregnant with her fourth child. Her green prison uniform sat carefully folded next to her. Two corrective service officers hovered nearby.
At 9:20pm we heard his first cries.
Four days later, with tears in her eyes and breasts full of milk, Rowrow was handcuffed and transported back to prison without him. The next morning baby John and I travelled 8 hours by train so he could be with family.
Seven weeks later, in a gesture of cruelty only bureaucracy could invent, Rowrow was released early on bail.
I never imagined my girlfriends would be incarcerated. Growing up, it was usually our boyfriends. It’s easy to grasp now when I consider, women, specifically First Nations women, account for the most significant growth in Australia’s prison system.
I grew up in a small town in Australia notorious for its open drug culture and alternative lifestyles. As young women, our choices were limited; violent relationships and becoming a mother at a young age were normal, and the dream to ‘leave and start a new life’ meant leaving our family, friends and community behind.
As such, I have spent a decade documenting women in my life as they grapple with the complexities of motherhood, trans-generational trauma, turbulent relationships, bureaucratic violence, and the burden of low expectations.
Weaving several narratives of loss, hope, vulnerability and resilience, ‘You’ll Know It When You Feel It’ is a long-term project which aims to accentuate these invisible stories in Australia—a country where racism and class bias thrives and where those experiencing the complexities of poverty are misunderstood, demonised and dehumanised.
Raphaela Rosella is an Australian artist working in the tradition of long-form documentary storytelling. Raphaela has spent a decade highlighting the lived experience of women in her life as they grapple with the complexities of motherhood, trans-generational trauma, turbulent relationships, bureaucratic violence and the cyclical nature of social disadvantage in Australia. Her artistic practice draws heavily on relational exchanges and a collaborative ethos to challenge tropes of victimhood and poverty.
In addition to her personal work, Raphaela has over ten years’ experience working with non-profit community arts and cultural development organisation Beyond Empathy—first as a participant and more recently as a community artist. Beyond Empathy uses arts to influence change and enrich the lives of individuals and communities experiencing recurring hardship in Australia.
Raphaela’s work has been exhibited and screened extensively both nationally and internationally including: Photoquai (France), International Centre for Photography (USA), UNSW Galleries (Australia) Noorderlicht Photofestival (Netherlands), Photoville (USA), In/Out Transylvania Photo Festival (Romania) and will be exhibited at the QUT Art Museum in 2019.
In 2014 Raphaela was one of 12 photographers selected worldwide to attend World Press Photo’s prestigious Joop Swart Masterclass in Amsterdam. Furthermore, her work has received many distinctions including: First Prize (Portrait Singles Category) World Press Photo Contest (2015), Australian Photobook of the Year (Momentro Pro) (2015) and most recently PHMuseum Women’s Photography Grant (2017).
Raphaela holds a bachelor of Photography with first class honours from the Queensland College of Art (2012) and a diploma of Community Services (Case Management) (2014).