My mother Judith Susan Jackson suffered from anorexia for most of her life. She died November 10, 2014.
She was 59. She was not only an exceptional human but was an extraordinary mother, wife, sister, teacher, grandmother and friend. My Mom hid the shame and pain of dealing with anorexia from the time she was a teenager and battled a rare form of lymphoma later in life. Many doctors told her that, at her weight, she would not survive a bone marrow transplant, but because of the transplant and her sheer will to live, we got a few extra years more together.
Our Mom is the inspiration for our work. My sister, Wesley, and I have dedicated our photography business (Photo Divine) to promoting healthy body image.
We are both moms—Wesley gave birth to a baby girl Mae Judith on Saturday April 18, 2015 and I have two boys. Odin is four and Asher is eighteen months.
The last eight years we have been redefining our business to focus on educating women on the importance of healthy self-image—we use our cameras to reflect the unique beauty of each woman we photograph. Being able to give the women we photograph a tangible image of what we see as beautiful and encouraging them to continue to focus on being kind to themselves have been ways to give to others what we were unable to give to our Mom.
After becoming a mother myself, I had even more respect for what my Mom was able to accomplish in raising two strong, confident, healthy, happy girls while she herself struggled every day to embrace the gifts she instilled in us.
The past two years we honored our Mom by creating a show called “Your Mama’s a SuperHERo,” for Mother’s Day. For our first photography show we recruited moms. The next year we asked people to “mominate” their mother’s to participate and be photographed. This year we almost didn’t do a show and then I decided to go out on a limb and ask moms to be brave enough to be photographed nude or semi-nude to honor all of the work and change a mother’s body endures to bring life into this world. I capped our show at twenty applicants with no expectations of reaching that number. I was wrong. We had an influx of volunteers willing to share what is sacred and beautiful about a mother’s body in the state that it exists now. We filled the show in less then a week.
The journey has been intimidating. It is a fragile state of affairs dealing with a woman’s vulnerability nude and in front of the camera. Learning to photograph what is real in a way that can be interpreted as beautiful to the owner of the body is challenging.
I always want the beauty that I see to be seen by the woman that I photograph. I can only look through the lens with love and hope it is reflected back to the person I am photographing.
The brave moms who volunteered themselves to be in this years show have invited Wesley and I into their homes, endured freezing outdoor weather and trusted us to make them feel safe and appreciated in the process. What unfolded because of these mom’s willingness to be vulnerable and except themselves as they are now is divine. I hope it is a statement of what should truly be celebrated about a woman and a mother: her strength and ability to adapt.
Mothers, in my opinion, are the ultimate SuperHERoes.
Author: Kyla Jenkinson
Editor: Katarina Tavčar
Image: Author’s Own