When we think about motherhood and photography, we think of “post-baby bodies” and the tabloid-front image of a glamorous women cradling her shiny-clean newborn bundle. Even in progressive contemporary society, various media present the mother as glamorous, perfect, and inhumanly flawless.
In her stunning series Portrait of The Mother, the photographer Joy Christiansen Erb provides an alternate vision of motherhood. Shooting her own children and domestic life, the artist presents simply seen evidences of her familial love. She substitutes airbrushing with stark and unflinchingly honest imagery, giving meaning to the elements of the child, the mother, and home that are easily forgotten.
Devoid beauty lights or immaculate backgrounds, her images archive that which cannot be staged: nail clippings and clumps of hair caught just before they are swept away, a trickle of sweat, marks, lines, and scars. By exposing her own sanitary napkins and sleep-wrinkled sheets, the connects her experience to those private moments shared by many women, regardless of whether or not they are mothers.
As the artist navigates her poignant narrative, her own body becomes equated with the home and her children, forever tied together by carefully preserved imperfections. What contemporary culture might view as flawed is elevated to the status of the divine; chipped walls, stretch marks, postpartum hair loss, and potty stains are all shot in the rich and delicate hues of natural lighting, shining magnificently.
In these unglamorous and banal moments, the bond between mother and child remains hauntingly unbroken despite the latter’s growth and restless squirming; as the child undergoes open heart surgery and heals with time, his scar mirrors the vulnerability captured in a painting he gifts his mother. The everyday is celebrated, made worthy of being seen, and given a permanent place in this unique family album. Take a look.
Thanks to Lenscratch
Images via Lenscratch