Childhood is messy, I think we all know and expect this. What I didn’t expect when becoming a mother was how messy motherhood also can be. As a new mother, I had all of these conflicting emotions – I was so in love but also so overwhelmed. I felt time going by so quickly but some days not quickly enough. It was in these feelings that my relationship with photography began. Having a camera in my hand helped me see my new world in a different light. Looking at motherhood from behind the lens is therapeutic for me. It helps me to embrace the phase of life my family is in and reminds myself that these daily details are fleeting.
Follow along as I share a few tools I use to tell my story of motherhood while documenting childhood along the way.
Let go of your version of perfect and embrace the chaos that comes with the stage of life you are in. Photographing life through my child’s eyes has shown me that their version of perfect is very different than the expectations I frequently put in my head.
As a documentary photographer, it can be overwhelming for me to always be on my toes to capture the first walk, the first bite of food, the last nursing session, etc. Life isn’t this easy – we are not given an event list of what time these moments will occur. Also, most of the time, these milestones are a process. Very rarely do you have a child go from crawling to walking in one day. Document the transition – not a precise moment.
Capture the fails, the successes, and the parenting that accompanies them. Use angles to highlight the footsteps, shoot from fun perspectives, have your hand lingering in the background to capture the feeling of “letting your child go” and to document the new independence they are gaining. Capture them falling and getting back up – tell the story of the astonishing determination children seem to have when learning new skills.
Every day is full of feelings and emotions. I mean really, we get the whole spectrum on a daily basis – pure joy all the way to temper tantrum’s and tears. Focus on the feelings. What are your feelings as a mother? What is your child feeling?
Vary the perspectives of your stories – tell the story through the eyes of your child. Both figuratively and literally – get down to their level and shoot from a child’s perspective. Tell the story through your eyes, what it feels like to look in on your two children sharing a treat together. Try yet another perspective and actually get in the frame with your children to tell the story from the perspective of an outsider looking in. I find this perspective the best for helping me to embrace motherhood.
Childhood happens in the present – look at life in the “now” and document the details that make up these days. Photograph the outfits that your three year old confidently puts on, the goggles that seem to be attached to her head when in water or on land, or the favorite lovey taking part in all of your daily activities.
Photograph the messes! See clutter as a story. All of these details provides context, adds a date, and leaves little hints for your future self to reminisce on.
Think about what techniques or compositional tools can you use to highlight the details within your story? Leading lines, gaze, light? I like to use blur by freelensing or using my Lensbaby to impart a sense of chaos, to separate the viewer from reality, or to add softness to a wisp of hair.
A lot of our lives happen indoors, in artificial light, and in low light. Do not count these scenes out – these are worth remembering!
Some images may not make the cut for your portfolio but they are absolutely part your story. Be careful not to get so caught up in the rules or shooting for your Instagram feed that you pass up some of these incredibly special moments happening in less than ideal light.
And there you have it. Embracing Motherhood is a beautiful thing. In motherhood and in photography – embrace imperfection, feel the feelings, appreciate the little things, and remember your why.