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9 Photographers Picturing Motherhood
These photographers illuminate truths about the experience of motherhood.
When it comes to depicting motherhood, stereotypes abound. From the age-old Madonna and Child to today’s celebrity moms beaming from magazine covers, motherhood endures as and subject of both fascination and controversy. For decades, artists have worked to change the ways in which childbearing and child-rearing have been perceived. The following photographs illuminate truths about the experience and potential of motherhood.
Drawn to the road and its possibilities, Justine Kurland spent the better part of twelve years traveling the United States in a van. Her son, Casper, played a key role in the resulting book, Highway Kind, often accompanying her, and determining the direction of her photographs. Traversing her role as both artist and mother, Kurland’s work reflects a delicate balance between the need for routine and the desire for freedom and escape.
LaToya Ruby Frazier
LaToya Ruby Frazier collaborated with her mother and grandmother to create an intergenerational exploration of the legacy of racism and economic decline in America’s small towns, as embodied by her hometown of Braddock, Pennsylvania. The Notion of Family is a statement both personal and truly political—an intervention in the histories and narratives of the region.
Doug DuBois photographed his family for over twenty years to produce …all the days and nights. His intimate portraits resonate with emotional immediacy, offering a potent examination of family relations, and what it means to subject personal relationships to the unblinking eye of the camera.
Mary Ellen Mark
“Tiny” (Erin Charles) is unforgettable. Mary Ellen Mark first met the fiercely independent thirteen-year-old living on the streets of Seattle, and continued photographing her for over 30 years. Now in her forties, Tiny has ten children, and Mary Ellen Mark’s Tiny: Streetwise Revisited remains a unique perspective on class, motherhood, addiction, and ultimately, love.
For her project, Mother, Carucci documented nine years of raising her twins, from the expectance of pregnancy, to the chaos of their youth. The resulting work peels back the sentimental façade of motherhood, revealing the rawness, banality, and beauty of her reality.
Learn more about Mother here.
When Immediate Family was first published in 1992, Sally Mann’s intimate photos of her children—roaming naked and free on their family farm in Virginia—were a dramatic and controversial departure from stereotypical portrayals of motherhood that dominated visual culture at the time.
Dorothea Lange, who documented rural poverty for the federal Farm Security Administration throughout the Great Depression, is perhaps best known for this image. “Migrant Mother,” portraying a thirty-two-year-old mother in a pea-picker’s camp struggling to feed her seven children, would become an icon of the era.
Alice Proujansky’s project, Women’s Work, follows women as they navigate childbirth, motherhood, and career, offering insight into the challenges that many mothers face in maintaining their personal and professional identities along the way.
Proujansky is also the author of Go Photo! An Activity Book for Kids.
Robin Schwartz began collaborating with her daughter, Amelia, when Amelia was just three years old. Now eighteen, Amelia has become her mother’s muse. Amelia and the Animals depicts their journey into invented worlds and fables, and has brought the two closer. “Photography gives us the opportunity to access our dreams,” Schwartz said, “to discover the extraordinary.”
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