The Importance of Being in Photos as a Mother
Absent or present, there is no figure that holds center stage in our lives more than our mothers. Yet, many times moms are the last to get in front of the camera. They make appointments for their children to get photographed, yet they will show up in yoga pants and a messy bun and insist they do NOT want to be in front of the camera. As a mom, I get it. It’s hard to take the time (and effort) to get camera ready. But the truth is, our children won’t remember a lot of those early years unless they have photos and videos to look back on.
Yesterday, I opened Instagram to a message from the other side of the world. I was tagged in a photo by world-renowned Australian photographer, Vicky Papas-Vergara. The moment I saw the image, memories came flooding back. It was from a fine art photography workshop we had held at the studio and I truly felt so fortunate to have such a talented woman capturing my children and I together. It wasn’t just the hair and makeup or the custom styling she did. For me, it was the ultimate ‘take your daughters to work’ day. I love these images and how they tell the story of my heart and how much I cherish my children. I have these fine art photos printed and displayed in my home and every once in awhile the girls will stop and comment on them. A visual reminder of how dear they are to me.
My little bald baby, is now a three-year-old with a messy mop of hair. “Dat’s me when I was baby!” she will say when she sees the photos that line our hallway. “And dat’s you, mama! You were holdin’ me.” The girls see me, and I see them. As small as they are, the recognize the passage of time. They remember the love we shared then and now.
I responded to Vicky’s message, saying that these photographic art pieces were truly more valuable to me today than they were the day they were taken. For me, it’s not usually the moment captured in the photograph that means as much as the reminder it provides of the life that has passed since it was taken.
I am now pregnant with twins, and I know life is about to get busier than ever. The twins will take center stage in a way that only newborns can, but photos like these will let my older girls will know that I cherished their babyhood and early childhood just as much as their younger siblings. They will know that I existed as a woman who worked hard to provide experiences for them, to build a business that included them, and to be a good example in maintaining my personal appearance (some days, at least!)
In my journey to becoming a photographer myself, I noticed early on (way before I had my own children) that my own mother was absent from a lot of the photos I was taking at our family gatherings. Where was she? She was most definitely there, but her role was to orchestrate and execute the event. She was often in the kitchen or cleaning up. Not as exciting or interesting to me as the photos of everyone sitting around the dessert table talking and laughing. This was sad to me, and entirely my fault for not making a point to capture her. Once I recognized that, I made a point to include my mom in more photos.
Oftentimes, the setting wasn’t perfect. The photos above were taken on an unmade bed. The photo below was at a game night at my daughter’s elementary school with overhead fluorescent lighting (a photographer’s least favorite lightsource). The point is, they were taken. The memories were more important than perfection and I’m so glad that I have them.
The way I see it, there are three ways to make sure that you as a mother exist in your family photos.
2. Completely let go of perfection and hand the camera or cell phone to someone else.
3. Learn how to take self-portraits
Self-portraits of motherhood have really gained in popularity over the past few years. There are two pieces of equipment that really help in this endeavor. You can see and purchase them through the links below:
This inexpensive tool will allow you to take a series of images without having to press the shutter yourself. Simply set up your image, put something where you will plan to sit so that you can set the exposure and focus. Set the invervalometer to take a series of images every few seconds (I usually choose 20 photos) and then place yourself in the scene.
While you could possibly set your camera and intervalometer on a solid surface, a tripod is the easiest way to hold it steady and be able to place it exactly where you would like. You only have to buy a tripod once (it won’t wear out or go out of style and it can last decades). I recommend getting a high-quality Manfrotto tripod like this one. I have the ball head mount, but if I was going to purchase again I would choose the fluid video head because I want to do more video in the coming year.
Many photographers offer a special Motherhood photography event each May. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, I will not be offering these in May of this year but I would like to do an event when the restrictions lift. If you would like to be added to the interest list, please visit the link in my Instagram bio to sign up.
As you can see, I speak from experience about how the value of photographs increases over time. My friend, Alison Brett, Family photographer in St. Petersburg, FL posted a great article about the value of photographs. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I did!