This has been a rough year. Some of you know my mom passed away in March, after a six year battle with breast cancer.
As the photographer in the family, I was in charge of putting together a DVD slideshow of images from my mom’s life with some of her favorite songs for her wake. I loved doing it and found it very therapeutic. But what I found terribly sad were the lack of photos of my mom as a mom---the above photo of my parents and my sister Karen is the only photograph I found of my mom holding one of her babies.
My mom had nine children. And she loved photography---she took her toddlers to get studio portraits and my mom created gallery walls long before Pinterest made it a fad. But my mom was usually the one behind the camera. And, like a lot of us, she was critical of her physical appearance and didn’t love being in front of the camera. There are hundreds of photos of her with her grandchildren, but I have maybe five photos of my mom and me and none of just the two of us when I was young.
LtoR: Erin, Karen, John, Elizabeth, Eileen, my mother Betty, Maria on her lap, and me in 1979.
One of the greatest gifts of this year has been the opportunity to photograph moms with their newborn babies. I can't articulate how witnessing those scenes has filled my heart, and given so much meaning to my work. I can’t help imaging that someday the precious newborn in front of me will be all grown up, and able to look with wonder at his or her own body when they were so small and new to the world. And to see your parents when they just met you? To see the joy, the wonder, the love that met you when you joined the world? I can’t imagine a greater gift.
I love this photo of my mom and me. It was taken a little over a year ago with a point and shoot---Thelma & Louise style---holding the camera at arms’ length. I’m all for living in the moment, for being fully present, but I do believe our species has this incredible gift of being able to time-travel via our memory and our imagination. Via words and pictures. This photo brings back all kinds of memories of that great visit.
So I’m taking this opportunity to ask you to get out the camera this Sunday. Go for brunch or have breakfast in bed, but ask someone to take your photograph. Use a timer or call a neighbor over. Get out from behind the camera and get in the frame and have a photograph taken of just you and your child. You might be critical of it, you might not like your hair that day, but don’t delete it---print it. Frame it. It sends a powerful message to your child and in ten years, believe me, you’ll think your hair looks fine and you’ll be so happy to have it. Give yourself and your children the gift of capturing a bit of today, and the ability to travel back to this moment, at least in their memory. Until my science-fiction-loving 10-year-old invents a real time-machine, it’s the best we can do!
For more inspiration, check out Rebecca Cooper’s list of 50 Photos to take of you and your kids and Embrace the Camera.