Life Sentences
by Florence Cameron-Webb


I decided to create this piece in response to meeting a prisoner who had come into hospital to give birth. It was arranged that the baby would be cared for by foster parents and the mother would return alone to prison within the following days. As it stands, current regulations are such that mothers may care for their infants until they are eighteen months old, providing that there is sufficient accommodation available within a prison and that there are less than eighteen months left on the mother’s sentence.

The aim of this piece for me was to convey the emotional significance of the dis-harmonious situation, integrating the natural purity of the mother-­baby relationship with the un-naturalness of separation.

A flower bouquet is of course a symbol of celebration and congratulations, so often brought to new mothers following successful delivery of their precious cargo, though in this instance of course the irony that the infant cannot remain with the mother is clear.

This bouquet stands in a plain white cylindrical vase on a table with white, crinkled, bed-linen overlaid to create a clinical atmosphere.

Bamboo not only represents the bars of a prison, the physical barrier between mother and child, but also the emotional barrier between them, indicative of a future bond which may not be formed. Spring tulips are a symbol of hope, potential and new life; White roses are symbolic of purity and innocence; The Forget-­Me-­Nots in the centre of the piece are self‐explanatory. Palm fronds, which embellish the display, are also symbols of fertility and peace in many cultures. Finally, Gypsophila, often known as ‘Baby’s breath’. I decided to arrange this flower as a ubiquitous presence within the bouquet. The baby’s breath perfuses their relationship, quite literally connecting the mother and the baby through the bars, signifying how the mother will remember her baby in the coming months behind bars.

Florence Cameron-Webb
Effective Consulting, Year One, 2017-2018