The Infinite Care Labor Loop

Our society depends on women’s unpaid care of children, elderly, and dependent family members. Although statistics are improving, women in the United States still do roughly twice as much unpaid labor for their families as men.

This series of documentary cinemagraphs—a type of image that combines stillness and motion—makes visible work that is so often unseen and undervalued. Like the cinemagraph that loops to infinity, care labor has no end. Upon completion, it dissolves and must be done again.

Theresa Navarro breastfeeds her infant Penelope in Brooklyn. Nursing an infant is a repetitive process that not only requires many hours of labor during the day, but being awake throughout the night.

Theresa, soothing her young daughter. Nursing and holding the baby have caused a repetitive stress injury in her wrist. At the time of this photograph, she tracked six hours of breastfeeding per day.

Melissa Hernandez, with her son Erosm, mopping the floor after he enjoys a meal in Brooklyn. The simple acts of feeding and cleaning up require hours of work every day.

After giving birth, Melissa gave up her full-time job to be able to be her son’s primary caregiver. As a single parent, and now freelancer, people keep asking, “When are you going to put him in day care and go back to work?” She replies, “This is work!”

Elise Thompson is a single mother who works full time at a major U.S. bank. Prior to having her son, she moved back home to help raise her younger sister who needed support after her mother’s passing.

Elise with her son Emerson and his friends Lou, Charlie, and Dylan while they play on a trampoline in Patterson, New Jersey. She’s never far away to make sure that the kids are safe.

Roxanne Henriques lives in New Jersey with her husband, Kareem, and their two young children. Although her husband has a more flexible job, she is the de facto house manager. Roxanne either does the shopping or has to provide him with a list.

Roxanne soothes her daughter Zoe while also watching her son Carter. Like many mothers, she is the primary parent who takes care of meltdowns and emotional support.

Jetta Antonakos regularly visits family friend Ruth Sinton to make sure that she doesn’t get isolated or neglected. Ruth is just one of several elders for whom Jetta plays a critical support role.

Jetta throws rocks into the water with her grandson Nico. She uses flex days off from her full-time job to help care for him.

Update, Aug. 6, 2018: Due to tech issues, the images in this post have been removed at the authors’ request.