Fine Art Photographer Stefanie Langenhoven explores the experience of becoming a mother through her ongoing series An Octopus Has Three Hearts. Womanhood is at the center of Stefanie’s work. She is inspired by her day-to-day experiences and her studies of the human psyche. Stefanie poetically explores the changes a woman goes through physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually when having children. She gracefully narrates through her images, a personal experience with pregnancy loss, a topic that is still often kept quiet. Throughout the series the viewer sees a transformative experience related to the title An Octopus has Three Hearts. “Becoming a mother challenges you to grow extra hearts which can feel deeply profound and very frightening at the same time.” Stefanie’s work investigates themes of fear, death, love, and gender.
Throughout her work Stefanie represents women’s bodies in a non-traditional way, pushing against the patriarchal ideal of what a woman’s body should look like and how it should be shown. She challenges the sterile, sexy, fantasy of how a woman’s body is presented in mainstream culture. Her images show the physical and emotional struggle women go through to bring children into the world. “My images represent in most part manifestations of emotional and feeling states, quietly making the invisible more visible.” Stefanie has used her series to show the emotional pain of pregnancy loss. Miscarriage is extremely common, yet not commonly spoken about, even in the art world. It’s estimated that 1 in 4 women will experience a miscarriage. Stefanie is helping to push through the barriers by visually exploring pregnancy loss to diminish the pain and shame that women sit with.
Another detail of miscarriage that Stefanie draws attention to with this series is how women are treated after. Being told by medical providers that miscarriage happens all the time or being encouraged not to announce a pregnancy until after the first trimester are common. Women’s experience and emotions around the loss are often minimized by those around her. Cold responses such as "you can try again" or "at least it was early" are usually very painful to hear and devalue the life that was lost. The use of the octopus, blood, and water throughout the series help convey messages about loss, pain, and transformation.
Stefanie is a full-time artist located in South Africa. She studied at the Open Window School of Visual Communication, and then the National College of Photography both in Pretoria, South Africa. In addition to studying art and photography, Stefanie went on to study Transpersonal Integrative Psychotherapy at the Centre for Counseling and Psychotherapy Education in London. Her work has been published in print and online globally. Stefanie is an associated artist with the Dead Bunny Society, South Africa.