Its been a big week and a half. Fiver turned 1, I turned 35, we’ve been traveling all over the place to celebrate and our adventures continue next week as we leave for Charleston.
A couple weeks before all of this my dear friend Susan asked if I had had the time to reflect on the past year and process the experience of motherhood amidst all the party planning and packing. I hadn’t. On my birthday I sat down in a coffee shop and I did think about all that has changed in me, in us and in our life together. The big surprise was how much I thought about our business and how it has changed along side us: for the better. So I decided it might be appropriate to share my memories and ramblings here.
His Birth: While sitting in that coffee shop one year from my labor, the Rolling Stones spoke to me over the radio with eerie relevance. “You can’t always get what you want, you get what you need.” His arrival remains the most amazing day of my life.
The Animal in Us: You have to join the species before you can join the race. I taught Fiver about his pincher grasp (all the better to pick up Cheerios with, my dear) and how to tear into food with your front teeth and gum it until you get your molars. He taught me how to trust my maternal instincts when they went against social norms or what the books say to do. He really made me think about the act of smiling and why it is a man cub’s very first physical milestone: it is the key to our survival and our most powerful ability, more powerful than our hands or even our minds.
Mommyness: I thought motherhood would be another layer of me, another identity, another club to join. I was surprised to find out that it was at the very center of me. Knowing that has made me more relaxed, more forgiving, more creative, more free. To look at my son and know, “ohh, so that’s why I am here”…I guess it took the pressure off. I can never be anything greater than Momma.
Photography: My son made me better at my job by making me lose all interest in technique, special effects, publishing or politics. Being a parent, at least so far, is a wonderful exercise in living in the present: autopilot is completely deactivated and nothing stays the same long enough to reinstate it. As a result, I have become more comfortable in the here and now and this is really where seeing begins. I’m not as present in my office chair as I used to be and that is frustrating for me at times but I am much more present to the moment than I have ever been and that’s the heart of our business. I have forgotten about the camera in my hands.
Creativity: Its never been stronger in me than it is right now. There aren’t enough hours in the day for all the things I want to make so I have to make hours too. Unwavering support for my creativity was the greatest of many great gifts my parents ever gave to me. I can’t wait to pay it forward.
Our Job: Has never seemed at all important until now. We know that we’re not out there curing cancer, feeding the hungry, or doing anything to elevate the human race as a whole. But sometimes, and if you haven’t already found me cheesy this is where I’m going to tip the scale all the way towards Cheese Whiz, I wonder about the power of looking at a photograph that shows us how we were loved. Weddings go by so fast. Babies grow up so fast. Fiver won’t have formed any memories of his own over this year but he will see our memory of it. I’m just happy that we really tried to document this artfully and authentically. I am reminded of a Duane Michels piece titled, This Photograph is My Proof with the caption beneath the photo reading, “This photograph is my proof. There was that afternoon, when things were still good between us and she embraced me and we were so happy. It did happen, she did love me, Look for yourself!” I hope that, on a hard or uncertain day, a client or child of a client can pull out an album or photograph we took just like my son will and think, “it did happen, she/he did love me, look for yourself!” Documentary photography isn’t the most noble of professions we could have chosen. But its pretty good.
I look at these photos of myself over this year, disheveled and without make up, bra straps hanging out and hair out of place, laugh lines in the creases and bags under my eyes and I smile. I see a woman wearily in love.