Portraits of a Mother by Ewa Samples
My five month old baby girl is screaming, wanting me to pick her up every time I put her down but I have no choice; I must prepare a breakfast for her two year old sister.
While making breakfast, I wonder, “Should I take the picture now or later?”. I decide to take it later.
I must take the new puppy for a quick pee. While outside I think “darn, I shouldʼve taken the camera with me.”
While emptying the dish washer, I think, “that would make a good picture, too”, but Iʼm in a hurry.
I must clean up the mess after breakfast and the baby is screaming so loud I canʼt hear my thoughts, but I can assure you Iʼm thinking about whether-or-not I should be setting up my camera right now and where.
Puppy: quick pee. No time to take a picture but while waiting for her to finish I see a good place. I already have an idea for a picture. Not today, though, and itʼs kinda public.
Iʼm not very comfortable with that.
Finally, I sit down and try to give all my attention to the very needy baby. I try to breastfeed her, but she seems to be not interested. She doesnʼt want it and she doesnʼt want to calm down either. I check her diaper; clean. After about 40 minutes of rocking her wiggling body, she falls asleep.
Iʼm exhausted. It is 11:20 am and I havenʼt had breakfast yet. Just coffee; my saviour.
Now I have both my hands free, for who knows how long. It might be 10 minutes or 2 hours. Hoping for the latter.
I make a quick lunch for everybody, eating mine standing, of course.
While I eat I look at my not-so-flat belly. My shirt wraps it tightly showing the tummy pouch. When I complain about the way my clothes fit, my husband says, “let’s get you some new pants and shirts”.
I donʼt want new things! Thereʼs nothing wrong with the clothes I have, I just want them to fit me again.
A few days ago I went through all the pictures of me from the period after No.1 was born and before I got pregnant with No.2. I was so thin. My arms were slim. My face had sharp frame and I could proudly announce, “I do not have a double chin,” or at least nothing like I have today.
Back then I thought I was not slim enough. I didnʼt like my body, nor did I like being photographed. The small amount of excess skin on my belly I had I described as fat, and I would drive my husband crazy by being so upset about it. Not that I do not do that today by my constant complaints about the shape of my body after the second baby came along.
Today, with my post-pregnant belly pouch, Iʼve come to like it more than I had ever liked my stomach before. Itʼs not because I am proud of it, nor is it because wish I didn’t have it; It is because since January, 2012, I have been taking one (or sometimes more than one) self-portrait every day.
I wanted to start the 365 Project (1 picture a day for a year) but having already been taking tons of pictures each day and this wasn’t a challenge for me. I wanted something different.
I wasnʼt sure if it would be a good idea. Taking a Self-portrait once in a while sounds ok, even normal; Why not? One a day for a year sounds narcissistic, shallow and totally self-centered. To me, It also sounds insane.
I was raised in a family where women arenʼt very comfortable in front of the camera, so I donʼt have many pictures of myself throughout most of my life. I decided to change that.
The day I started this project I was already far along in my second pregnancy.
Taking pictures of myself wasnʼt really an issue as I had an excuse to look the way I did.
Itʼs true that today, after 9 months of this project, itʼs easier to get in front of the camera, but I have a new challenge. Iʼm challenged to take (and to post without cropping) pictures with my entire body. IT IS NOT EASY. I do not like it but, Iʼve learned that not being honest and cropping out the parts of myself that I donʼt like is not going to make them to disappear in real life.
My husband says: “youʼre so pretty, you do know that, donʼt you? You wouldnʼt be posting all those pictures of yourself on the blog if you didn’t.”
So, there is some truth in his words. I do not feel like Iʼm the ugliest woman on the block. At the same time I am not my old-self; young, physically fit twenty-something girl who could do a head stand for 10 min. and run 12K. I do not exercise as often as I should, I know that.
I do not have the money nor the time to invest into a personal trainer or a gym, and I love corn bread a little too much.
Iʼm reminded about it each time I look in the mirror, and every time I look at my camera screen with a self-portrait on it. I press the “delete” button much more often than ever before.
But you know what? I am ok with that. I HAVE LEARNED to be ok with that. I wasnʼt before. Iʼm ok with saying,“Gosh, I look hideous”, press the delete button and get in front of the camera one more time and then again, and again until I see the one picture Iʼm willing to post on my blog.
It took me 9 months to finally take the camera and a tripod to a place with strange people around and start taking pictures of myself.
Thanks to this project, Iʼve learned how I look the best in front of the camera. I know which profile is better, I know how to “move” my eyes to look in a certain way. I know what not to wear! As a SAHM I tend to always look the same every day; wear the same clothes and the same ponytail. Thatʼs why this project is so real to a regular mother. In most of my pictures I do not wear make-up, I am in my pajamas, or regular clothes playing with my kids.
At some point this project took on a life of its own. It became more about US than about ME. More about motherhood than just one mother.
Within the insanity of being a mother of two very young children and recently a new owner of a puppy I find this project to be my island to which I go whenever I need some “me” time.
I set up the camera and I pose like there is no one watching!
ABOUT EWA: Ewa Samples (Mom Photographer) is first generation Polish. After graduating university in Poland with master degree in Media Education, at age 26 she moved to the US for a cultural exchange program called Au Pair.
Today she is a mother of two young girls, wife to a crazy biker and an owner of two dogs.
In her private life, she is very passionate about food and children photography. Now and then, for a difference, she likes to snap a picture of a flower or a bug.
At the beginning of 2012 she started the 365 Self-Portrait Project (one self-portrait each day for a year).