The Second Shift: Making Visible the Unseen Work of Home

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


This doctoral research focuses on the second shift - the invisible work of home and childcare primarily carried out by women on top of their paid employment. Hidden in plain sight and veiled by familiarity and insignificance, the second shift is largely absent from representations of home and family.

Sociological studies on the second shift are numerous and considered in this thesis yet, given that the lack of visibility is perhaps the biggest problem, there is a paucity of visual art attempting to address it. I observe that the insistent distinction made between private and public masks both a comprehensive inequality and the excuse for failing to address it. Recognising that gendered differences extend beyond the individual to the structural creates space to press for change. I conducted fieldwork to forge connections and raise consciousness by recognising, hearing and seeing what women do, and how they feel, about the second shift; the personal is political.

My art practice examines these ordinary, familiar experiences of home and the everyday. I use photography to observe what is overlooked in the habitual mode of daily life. The resulting artwork illuminates the details of quotidian practices of housework and family care, and a quiet anger at what is taken for granted.

I conclude by considering art as a means of resistance, looking for what is omitted in representation, paying attention to what seems unworthy of noticing at all, and showing our ways of making do and getting by. The accompanying practice resulted in a body of photographs which was published in a photobook in 2019 and will be shown in a series of international exhibitions in 2020. This artwork aims to make the second shift and its attendant emotional affects visible and this representation is my contribution to knowledge.
Date of AwardJun 2020
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorPaul Seawright (Supervisor), Shirley Mac William (Supervisor) & Cherie Driver (Supervisor)


  • Gender
  • Photography
  • Art
  • Resistance
  • Dirt
  • Home
  • Childcare
  • Mothering
  • Labour
  • Feminism
  • Visibility
  • Work
  • Domestic
  • Women
  • Disgust
  • Disorder
  • Aesthetics
  • Quotidian
  • Everyday
  • Motherhood
  • Photobook

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