These are the most brutally honest, yet strangely magical images of motherhood I have ever seen.
Elinor Carucci is an Israeli-American photographer living in New York. I just recently came across her work and it captivated me.
As a mother to two young boys, I fell in love with her “Mother” series. I’ve seen and taken hundreds of pictures that reflect the day-to-day experience of motherhood.
I am in that age group where many of my friends have become mothers in the past few years and my Facebook feed is full of adorable babies, grinning toddlers and families on holiday. This is what we want others to see about our lives as parents.
But Elinor’s pictures are different.
She shows me motherhood as I know it to be, but have never seen expressed quite so eloquently and intimately in the visual. Her pictures are raw and real: capturing profound, ridiculous, infuriating and wonderfully honest moments recognisable to any parent but rarely shared on social media or saved for family photo albums.
They document her journey as a mother to twins from pregnancy to pre-teens. Her nude self-portrait post birth and c-section is simultaneously unflinching and tender. She gets right up close with the snot and the tears and the bruised lips of her children, and somehow amplifies the beauty in these uncelebrated moments with her intense focus.
In one picture her hand touches her crying son’s face, in another her children fight in the hallway or she holds her daughter on her lap as she sits on the toilet.
When I asked her what all these photos have in common, Elinor explained,
“I’m trying to see something that is both very personal, but universal at the same time.”
These are scenes every mother is familiar with, but as any remarkable artist does, she brings mystery to the everyday, and challenges what you think you know. I found myself absorbed in her pictures, scrolling through again and again.
Steve Appleford of Los Angeles Times put it well when he said,
“Carucci collects these moments of need, joy and primal conflict with depth and grace.”
The thing that separates these pictures from the millions of sleeping babies or smiling kiddies on Instagram, is how they manage to show the full spectrum of motherhood in a single shot: the whole messy cocktail of experience and emotion.
The intimacy, the exhaustion, the simplicity, the complexity, the beauty, the grossness, the sheer frustration and pure love—it’s all there and more.
This photo series was published as a book called “Mother” in 2013.
Elinor has an upcoming show at the new Conde Nast Gallery (Freedom Tower, New York City). The Effect of Motherhood runs from 11 May – 30 June. Photos from the Mother series will be shown together with some of her editorial work around families and motherhood.
She says the show aims to reflect how her own experience as a mother has changed the way she relates to other mothers and families and just people in general.
Although it is unfortunately not open to the public because of Freedom Tower security policies, there is an opening and a few events to look out for if you’re in NYC and want to see these unforgettable images in person.
Thanks to mothers everywhere and to their ability to love unconditionally:
Another: what if School Lunches were healthy?
Bonus: did you know most toys are toxic?
One more bonus:
Author: Khara-Jade Warren
Editor: Travis May
Images: Used with permission from the artist