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.

ModellingModelling Modelling

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.

_MG_3218 _MG_3224

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.

lisa final

“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:




7 thoughts on “Mothering Not Modeling

  1. Beautiful! Ashlee is amazing. My experience was pretty similar! I envied Ashlee and Nova a little bit, I wanted my baby (just a few months younger than Nova) to still be nursing and in her sling with me. But my baby was done nursing and oh-so-over her sling long ago. I tried to put her in the thing yesterday and she yelled “NO! NO! NO!” then threw herself onto the floor. I digress… I agree with you on how smooth the whole shoot was and how it all happens so fast! I planned on positioning myself better, and I didn’t have the time. Which ended in a most perfect result. Completely different than I had imagined yet five million times better! The interview was difficult for me, for some reason the words just didn’t want to come out of my mouth, my experience just flooded back to me and immediately became so painful again. You and your children are beautiful. Thank you for being a fellow courageous woman, Lisa! Don’t you just feel like a freaking badass?!


    • I feel very lucky to also have gotten a couple bonus bf shots with Farrah. I have so many with Arlo so it is wonderful to have such a gorgeous shot with Farrah, as it is likely the ONLY one. I feel proud that I saw it, I wanted it and I did it. Seeing it through. You should too!


  2. Thank you for this post! I was able to participate in this wonderful project yesterday. Like many of us who participate, I was nervous and unsure of what to expect. I happened to see your blog yesterday morning shortly before my shoot was scheduled. Your words eliminated all of my nerves and I am grateful you shared your experience. I recommend all participating mommas take the time to read your words. They are comforting and set the right expectation of the day.


  3. I love the affection that comes through between Arlo and Farrah Star…..and of course and ‘absolutely’ the love from you to them. So raw, real and absolutely beautiful, Lisa


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