“But where’s the mummy?”, she said with concern pointing at the pictures on the wall. When my 3-year old daughter started asking this question, I realised there was a gaping hole in the photographic record of our family life. Me. I was missing from the vast majority of our pictures and that needed to change. I would occasionally hand over the camera to my husband. He’s pretty good, but… you know, he wasn’t always there for THE moments that I really wanted to remember.
I had photographer friends take photos of me and my girl. They were awesome. But I felt self-conscious on the other side of the camera, as if I had to “behave” in a certain way. And those photos, as beautiful as they are, were told in another’s voice. I still yearned for pictures of how I saw my relationship with my daughter, my connection with her, a connection that is built upon little by little, through all the seemingly ordinary things that the two of us do together all day and every day.
So I got myself a tripod and a remote trigger with the plan to take a self portrait with my daughter once a week. I wasn’t used to photographing in this way; taking a picture without being behind the camera. It’s hard. So after taking a few, I stopped. Weeks went by. My brand new tripod and remote were starting to gather dust. Then one day, when her daddy was away, and we had the whole day together, I thought, “Right, this is the day. We have no other plans. I’m going to do it. An entire day of self-portraits with my girl”. So I did.
At first, I couldn’t work the tripod and I got frustrated with getting the focus right. But I kept trying. I photographed her waking me up and our breakfast together (meltdown and all – she wanted ice-cream, I was offering toast). We went out and (without the tripod) I suddenly found myself seeing all these opportunities to capture “us” in creative ways – window reflections, puddles, even our reflection on a motorbike, the mirror at the swimming pool. I had only one rule all day – that I had to be in every single frame I shot.
By the time we got home that afternoon, I was exhausted. I wanted to stop for the day, but my heart reminded me “you want to remember this”. I kept going, determined to capture the main “scenes” that make up our life together: drawing together, household chores, dinnertime, bathtime, storytime and bedtime…
I messed up. A lot. Some scenes I shot fifty frames and none were any good, missed focus, chopped heads, messy composition, bad lighting. But amidst the 1800 frames I shot that day, I did capture an honest depiction of our life together right now; our love, our trials, the hard work, the exhaustion and above all our connection as mother and daughter.
Despite all the imperfections that my photographer brain can’t help but see, when I look at these pictures, I smile. I see all the hard work that goes into this parenting business every single day. And I am proud of myself. I know we will always have a special mother and daughter bond. But over time it will change and evolve. So I am grateful for this day when I took the time and effort to capture what our connection looks like right now. It’s like I’m finally telling our story in my own words.