MOMMA’S GONE CITY

Every so often, something happens in life that is so poignant, fantastic and incredibly random that it makes you stop and think.

“Lately I’ve been making an effort to get in front of the camera more with my children. As important as my own photography is to me, and especially as much as I value photos of my kids, I have realized that although it might not always be flattering, the moments are real. I will want to remember all of it, not just the way my children looked when they were little.”

About 4  months ago we decided that it was time to sell our high chair.  We posted about  it on a local bulletin and a woman called that was interested in checking it out.  The kids and I were home when she arrived with her blond, gorgeous little blue-eyed baby.  She was stunning in her red pig tails, and I could tell by her energy that she was interesting and soulful, and I tend to gravitate to people with those qualities.   We talked a little, and after she left I went to check out her website that showcases her work as a professional photographer and musician. And by professional, I mean professional.

A few weeks later, I saw Ali Smith again in the plaza where we live and stopped to chat.  She asked me if I would be interested in being a part of a book/documentary that she is doing called “Momma Love“.  She wanted to capture a mother’s life with toddlers in Manhattan.  Of course I was honored and excited to be involved in anything that she does, so I gave her my information.

I spent a great portion of that evening on her website reading about her work and especially the Momma Love documentary.  I was moved to tears by some of the photos in the documentary, which is nothing short of exquisite.  They are edgy, slightly raw and completely real.  Her ability to capture a moment in time is truly astounding.  Being that I have such a strong, impenetrable bond with my  mother and embrace my own motherhood to its fullest, I thought it was beyond beautiful.  Celebrating the divinity of motherhood and the community that we find amongst each other is part of the essence of life.  It isn’t always fun, and it certainly isn’t very easy.  I found her work to be very relatable and profound in these ways especially because even still, it is awesome.

Introducing her book, Momma Love, Ali states:

“Momma Love is not only about the love a mother shows. It’s about the love she is shown, by herself and the world around her.  We all feel an undeniable pull toward our mother’s love. If the bond between you and your mother was strong and healthy, it created a space of unparalleled safety and comfort for you. If it was distorted or missing, you’ve probably spent a lifetime coming to terms with that fact, seeking it out or letting it go. Either way, mother love is profoundly symbolic and powerful—so much so that entire religions, mythologies, and classic works of literature are built around either the sanctity or the destructive power of it. Societies need ‘Momma Love’ in order to survive, but very often don’t know how to take care of it properly.  The details and rituals of motherhood largely go unnoticed and are taken for granted. They are talked about among mothers in private places—in toy-strewn living rooms, in kitchens, or over the phone while a child throws a tantrum on the floor nearby. To an outsider, motherhood seems like a profoundly important secret society, one that I started this project to understand more fully.  Each woman I photographed for this project has the truth of her experience to offer. In creating this book I have attempted to bring a community to light, creating a patchwork-quilt of advice, empathy, reflection, commiseration, opinion, anger, assurance, and love. In order to nurture healthier mothers and a healthier society, honest conversations about the realities of motherhood and how mothers are treated are necessary.”

Not only to Ali and I click as friends, but we have a common interest in showcasing how mothers live and the collaborative effort that is involved in motherhood.

One of the photos that was taken from our shoot was used in my header for Momma’s Gone City.  Here is another one of my favorites:

©Ali Smith

In 2007, Ali did a project that was printed in the June 2007 issue of Bust Magazine.  She went to photograph women in the Maximum Secuity Women’s Facility at Bedford Hills Prison, New York.  “It was a photo essay on the unique program they have there that helps mothers bond with their children, educates them about parenting, helps them get off drugs in part so that they can parent better once they’re out. Babies born in prison are allowed to stay with their mothers in a nursery ward for the first 18 months of life, providing important bonding for them that would otherwise be missing and potentially damaging. Inmates have to be deemed appropriate (meaning the nature of their crime and mental state) to participate in the program.  It’s revolutionary in the sense that it’s humane and not solely punitive in nature and takes into account the very real situations of thousands of children living with incarcerated parents and the shortcomings in the lives of the mothers that helped lead them to where they are.

 

 

 

 

This project sank my heart and was very uplifting at the same time.  Here, women who -by society’s standards- do not “count” as mothers, are highlighted and given a voice from behind bars.  Ali surfaced the voices and hearts of these women, and reminded the world that they do exist.  If there is one thing that sickens me, it’s the thought of babies and children being without their mothers and fathers.  Of course, perhaps this isn’t the worst case scenario for many of them, but I appreciate the fact that the state is looking out for them.  I appreciate the fact that Ali Smith and Bust Magazine would publish a project about some of the forgotten children in society because of a crime that their parents committed.   You can find the article pages herehere and here.

I encourage you to check out Ali’s website ( http://www.alismith.com) and even share a story with her about your parenting experiences on her blog.  She would love to hear from you for her Momma Love multimedia project.  For me, meeting Ali and being introduced to her art was incredibly inspiring.  I’m beyond humbled and appreciative to be a part of her project and I hope that you take as much from it as I did.

 

– See more at: http://www.mommasgonecity.com/2010/07/momma-love-an-introduction/#sthash.u1pLoa22.dpuf