Mothering Not Modeling
I’ve had a couple of weeks to process my 4th Trimester Bodies Project experience as a photographer, writer, woman and mother. Things got deep around here. The product is gorgeous, but the experience as a whole, divine.
Ashlee Wells Jackson‘s studio is on the second floor of a house in residential Chicago. The space is warm, unassuming and filled with creative art and thoughtful objects. The kids got busy while Laura started my hair and make-up.
Ashlee and her daughter Nova were also in the room and the four (usually five, sometimes six) of us got to know one another. I was amazed at the bond between Ashlee and Nova; they were together throughout the entire shoot. I did not know then the extraordinary story of Nova’s birth but now I am even more awestruck and inspired by this mother-daughter dyad. You can read about Super Nova and her sister Aurora here: Bird Nest Egg.
Hair and make-up complete, it was time for a headshot and quick interview.
What’s your name?
How old are your children?
Why are you here?
Ashlee coached me before starting (i.e. “respond in the form of a statement”) and then I got to tell a bit of my story. There was a time when the weight of the words “Arlo was my sixth pregnancy” pulled me to my knees and left me there, but with every opportunity to speak them I stand a little taller. Thank you Ashlee for that gift.
Everything moved smoothly and with admirable efficiency. I felt as if I was with old friends but the purpose of my being there did not get lost in wistful camaraderie. The whole afternoon was a showcase of convivial professionalism.
Down to bra and underwear and with the kids ready too, Ashlee gently guided us to our positions then walked back to her camera and said to me, “Now your job is to just be with your kids.” Then she started shooting. Just like that. Immediately. There was no time to
suck in my gut,
elongate my neck,
lose the double chin
or angle my hips away from the lens.
“Just be with your kids.” Is this purposeful? I suspect it is as Ashlee clearly knows what she’s trying to elicit from her subject: mothering, not modeling. It works. When I helped choose this final shot (yes! you choose the final shot with as much input from Ashlee to move the process forward) I didn’t look at me. I only saw Arlo and Farrah Star: “They’re looking into each other’s eyes!” “He’s touching her foot!” “Both his dimples are in this one!” It was not an easy choice as Ashlee’s work is incredible, but the point is this was not a portrait of me and my kids like I thought it would be. I was not photoshopped. I was not posed. This is a portrait of me mothering my kids and when I mother my kids I do it full-hipped, soft-bellied and unfiltered. The 4th Trimester Bodies Project held up a mirror to my motherhood and blinded me with love.
I’m so grateful to Ashlee. Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine.
Do it for yourself and give generously: