Last weekend, I was talking to a photographer friend of mine (of which, yes, there are several) and in talking about my latest participation in the Clash Fashion show, they quipped if I wanted them there to visit … or if I just wanted the pictures they’d take.
And while I reassured this old friend that I did indeed miss their presence and would have loved their support and friendly face at the show … I realized that maybe I’ve never explained to many people about collecting the modeling photos and sharing them. It might be easy to see a vain person (which, sure a touch maybe — but it’s taken me nearly 35 years to understand that I am considered attractive so hush and let me live) — but there is a lot you don’t see.
Like that my mother had maybe a dozen or so photos of her mother, who passed unexpectedly when I was very small. Or that even in my own childhood photo albums, my mother is barely present — with, or without, my sibling and myself.
I’m actually pretty confident my childhood cats were photographed more than my mother.
Several years ago, there was a blog post that went viral about how one woman was campaigning for “the mom stays in the picture.” The observation she’d made about her own life was very similar: few photos of her mother or her other female family members existed in the cadre of generational pictorial documentation within her family, mostly because it was the mom taking the photos, preserving the memories.
Doing all the emotional labor.
Any photos that did exist were staged, posed family photos — nothing of the mom in her element, no candids playing with the kids, no surprises. The mom just wasn’t in the frame unless she was planned or forced to be.
And I know so many women who duck when they see a camera come out, suddenly afraid of what they think are flaws being put on display, forgetting they are whole and complete women and that the people who love them most don’t see a composite of undesirable or lacking attributes.
They see the woman who keeps the show going, often the center of their worlds.
So growing up primarily seeing my grandmother (to whom both my mother and myself bear a strong resemblance) through a small array of scarce photos, and later struggling to find photos of my own mother at my age (or really, any age) to show people who never had the chance to meet her before she moved away — the post hit hard. Especially when my marriage fell apart and I realized how much I was living that very same life.
And I wanted to change that.
The morbid joke I made last summer with my closest friends was that I was taking all these modeling photos so there’d be something interesting to show at my funeral, some sort of life and story for my children to hold on to someday, beyond the scope of my role as their mother. I made one friend promise me on their own cat’s life they’d include the mermaid and the boudoir and the wildest shoots, not just the pretty ones and not just the staged candids and the professional family shoots, but the ridiculous selfies and the blurry shots my offspring would take with their tiny hands and 1.0 megapixel toy cameras. Like my blogs that came before this, I wanted it all there, in all it’s messy honesty and vulnerability.
I wanted to be seen as a whole and complete human, with interests and a life of which mothering was one brilliant facet, but not the entire picture.
And now, I do it to continue to tell the story of not just myself, but all of us, during this hugely complex and defining period in our lives. Beyond performing confidence and self acceptance, I want to preserve this wild magic so someday if I end up a grandmother I can look at those tiny(-ier) humans and say look at who I was when your parents were kids. Look at who we all were and the things we did and the life we had. Look at this magic you come from. Look at this magic you, too, possess.
So, in a way, yes, I do this all for the photos. But not because I like to look at myself or to be seen on display.
I do it so that someday, there is an irrefutable record that I was here, that I mattered, that I didn’t shy away from the moment because of my fears or my insecurities.
I do it so that they never remember a time when I was too scared to be caught in the eye of any lens.
I do it so they remember I have always been, and will always be, right there, with them.
And I do it so that I, too, will remember everything.
Heathered charcoal turtleneck tunic & grey cotton knit infinity scarf: Old Navy
Faux leather mini skirt: H&M
Polka dot micro fishnet tights: MeMoi
Black and white bouclé tweed cropped moto jacket, black knit fingerless gloves, & black knit coated stripe beanie: Target
Clear quartz prism stud earrings: Pluma Jewelry
Purple druzy geode necklace: Nordstrom Rack
Purple tortoiseshell cats eye glasses: Kate Spade
Faux suede over-the-knee boots: Kenneth Cole