In late 2019 a group of female photographers were chatting about how we always encourage our clients to get in the frame. We reassure them of how much their kids love them just the way they are, reminding them they don’t want to be missing from the images of these years of their kids lives, and what an important part of their family story they are. I know I always want my photo shoots to be centered around mothers, and the huge role we play in supporting and holding our families together. And yet, we, as photographers often don’t walk that walk and get in the frame with our own families.
So we set up an instagram project to encourage each other to be on #bothsidesofthelens We made it low pressure – it didn’t need to be posed or perfect. Heck, it didn’t need to be all of ourselves in the frame, just a body part would do sometimes. It could be a beautiful portrait of ourselves as a reminder that we’re here and we’re strong females, not just mothers, or an image with our family. A phone image, or with our big cameras. A reflection or a shadow was fine too. A selfie, or a set up – there were no rules, just that once a fortnight somehow or other we were in an image – with the aim that at the end of the year we’d have something around 25 images of US being a documented, visible part of our daily stories.
And I’m delighted that despite the crazy turmoil of 2020, I did pretty much manage to be there, consistently, throughout the year, and sometimes, more than once a fortnight too. I pushed myself to put my camera on a tripod or counter (see The Travelling Dress project, in which I also talk about some of the pressures of capturing yourself in photos). I asked family members to click the shutter, I scoured their phones to see if they had some images too, which I then airdropped to myself. I even flew my drone to make sure I was captured, somehow, anyhow.
Being in photos means I was there. I was present. I matter. And as mothers we know it often doesn’t feel that way and we can feel invisible in the drudgery of daily life – especially in 2020 life with homeschool and non stop requests for snacks, and all the extra laundry and other burdens it brought, which fell particularly on women.
Not all of these photos made it to instagram as part of the project, in fact most of them didn’t because once I started pulling photos together for this blog post I went down a rabbit hole and found myself focussing on the importance of moments as much as art, but each of them matters to me. I look back at the images from the start of the project, I’d lost so much weight through being ill. My jeans hung off me and I looked 20 years older than I had just a year before, and the last thing I wanted was to be in photos. But I knew it was important that I remembered how that felt. I was on a journey, and the way I looked and felt was part of the story too.
I solo parented for a large part of the year, and the way that affected my relationships is important too. And so I am there in family photos, and in images of just us girls too. There are photos that are hard to look back on, and they bring back difficult memories, but they’re part of the story too. And there are behind the scenes images that might have made me cringe in the past, but now I see them for what they are – all part of the jigsaw of life in its raw form.
I’m sometimes too much of a photographer perfectionist to take phone selfies, but I did this year, on the top of mountains and at galleries and out in the wilds and on road trips, and they’re here too (though I’m omitting the ones with the bunny ears and the kitten noses 😉 ). So here we go, a mishmash of images, but a celebration of life, through its up’s and downs, and in all the forms it takes, I made it to both sides of the lens.
When you scroll to the bottom be sure to click over to some of the other wonderful ladies who were part of this project – and I’m happy to say we’re carrying it on to keep encouraging each other through 2021 too. THANK YOU to all the ladies in our IG group for having my back, and to my family for going along with my bold new years day statement that I wanted to be in pictures, no matter how they captured it!! Without saying it out loud, and without those women beside me I’m not sure I’d have continued to make sure I was present – it made me accountable, and social media provided the connection.
Images from NE India – mostly Assam, Meghalaya, Manipur and Nagaland except black and white of me putting flowers in the girls hair which was taken by the wonderful Clare Clark Photography
Various moments from Nepal, India and Pakistan – upto and including our last day where we flew than 24 hours after making the decision to go because of the escalating lockdowns happening worldwide due to Covid-19
Our flight from Pakistan onwards. Quarantine in Yorkshire, days in Cambridge, the re-entry of Vera, our van, Tommy leaving for work. Girls climbing the 3 Yorkshire Peaks, a trip to London to see Indy’s photos on display. More Yorkshire days, lots of laughter and a Christmas flight to UAE.
And go see these wonderful ladies to see how they get themselves into the frame through all that 2020 threw at us all,
Anouk Godbout at Anouk G Photos
Brooke Hamilton at Hamilton Creek Photography
Thanks for following along,