Tuesday, 16 February 2021

A Domestic Worker' Story - photo essay on love, loss, and displacement


Caroline’s daughter, Elodie with Juning’s second son, Roel, on the family farm in Bantayan Island/Credit: Caroline Irby

Award-winning photographer Caroline Irby grew up in London with Juning, a Filipina woman, who stayed with her family for 22 years, first in Hong Kong, then in London.  “I can’t say where Juning’s influence on my early years began and ended: she was in almost every part of my life.”  Caroline says that today no smell is more comforting than the smell of rice, which Juning loved to cook. And it is now her children’s staple.

But Juning had four children of her own living on her native Bantayan, a small island in the Philippines 7,000 miles away.  

It was only when Caroline became a mother herself that she grasped the price Juning and her children had to pay. “I can’t shake off a feeling of strangeness that their lives and mine carried on in parallel for all those years, mine with their mother, theirs without. We are all part of the same curious equation, and after decades of living in tandem but remotely, I wanted to try to understand how this all happened and what the effect on the people involved had been.”


Juning’s four children left behind
The result is Someone Else’s Mother”, a beautiful and sensitive photo essay, interweaving Caroline's own recollections of a childhood spent with Juning with conversations and photos with Juning and her four children – gleaned in London and over three visits to Bantayan.

I found the book particularly interesting and moving because, although it tells the very personal story of Caroline and Juning and their families, it also echoes parts of the stories of millions of nannies and their host families across the world.

Every day, just from the Philippines, 5,000 people leave their country in search of work abroad. For decades, this movement has been female dominated: more than 70% of Filipino emigrants are currently women.


When she became a mother, Caroline decided to look after her children herself as much as possible, aware that is a freedom of choice Juning couldn’t have.

Juning explained: “I was desperate to earn more money. My children were still young and I left them with my mother. It hurt me when I left them, but I had no choice: I had to work abroad for their education.”

And Roly, Juning’s oldest child, told Caroline when she visited Bantayan in 2018 with her own children:  “I was lonely. Everywhere I was looking for her care. You were lucky, Caroline: you had her care for so many years. I had no one to talk to when I had a problem.”

Juning achieved her goal of feeding and educating her family: three of them have university degrees. Between them, there is a farm, several other homes, nine children, two foster children, and the extended family is well supported. “Quietly, Juning has been a vessel for a huge amount of change.”

Yet, “Someone Else’s Mother” is a bittersweet story with no happy ending. The thoughtful texts and light-infused photography weave together a story of  attachment, loneliness and displacement, love and loss, memory, sadness and hope, guilt and inequality. It is also a story to try to understand.  

And nannies and domestic workers all over the world will recognize parts of that story.

The book, published by Schilt in 2020, can be ordered online and from bookstores (and here).

Juning’s grown up children with Caroline’s children on Batayan Island/Credit: Caroline Irby


  1. شركة نقل عفش
    اهم شركات مكافحة حشرات بالخبر كذلك معرض اهم شركة مكافحة حشرات بالدمام والخبر والجبيل والخبر والاحساء والقطيف كذلك شركة رش حشرات بالدمام ومكافحة الحشرات بالخبر
    شركة مكافحة حشرات بالدمام
    شركة تنظيف خزانات بجدة الجوهرة من افضل شركات تنظيف الخزانات بجدة حيث ان تنظيف خزانات بجدة يحتاج الى مهارة فى كيفية غسيل وتنظيف الخزانات الكبيرة والصغيرة بجدة على ايدى متخصصين فى تنظيف الخزانات بجدة
    شركة تنظيف خزانات بجدة
    شركة كشف تسربات المياه بالدمام
    شركة نقل عفش واثاث


  2. شركة كيان لنقل العفش بالرياض والمدينة المنورة وجدة ومكة والطائف والدمام تقديم لكم دليل كامل لشركات نقل العفش بالمملكة العربية السعودية
    نقل عفش شركة كيان
    دليل شركات نقل العفش
    شركة نقل عفش بالمدينة المنورة
    شركة نقل اثاث بالرياض
    شركة نقل عفش بجدة
    شركة نقل عفش بمكة
    شركة نقل عفش بالطائف

  3. You should find best essay writing services with great knowledge at reasonable price.because you are a student so you have to find a writer with academic knowledge. I recommend WritePaper.Info for best services.try this.