When mothers think about mothering, there are a certain set of emotions that come rolling over them combined with images of their children that are not always smiling and cute. It is more often a warm hand reaching for yours, a tear-wetted cheek pressing your arm, the waking in the middle of the night, an open mouth showing you missing teeth. So, when I opened Elinor Carucci’s book of photography called Mother, I was welcomed into a familiar world.
Carucci has often used family as the main subject for her work, describing herself as a teenager realizing her passion for photography after snapping a picture of her own mother. The project that came to be Mother began 10 years ago with the pregnancy of her twin son and daughter. She calls herself “a happy pregnant lady,” and the serenity of her expression in these pregnancy photographs is quickly replaced by the exhaustion of caring for her babies and the struggle between those same emotions as the children grow from toddlers to third graders.
Intimate and compelling, these pictures appeal to us to be voyeurs in the family drama, documenting the child who won’t leave her side to let her use the bathroom, or who endures a feverish ride home in the subway—all magically lit by an enchanting chiaroscuric light that characterizes Carucci’s work.
This is Carucci’s third monograph after Closer (also about her family) and Diary of a Dancer, about her career as a belly dancer. She also photographs commercial projects, you may have seen her photographs on the covers of Patricia Highsmith mysteries or in the New York Times Magazine for a story on Anthony Weiner. She often photographs skin in close up, revealing a surprising amount of character and beauty just inches from her subject.
To see and read more about photographers who use family, intimacy and motherhood as a subject, check out these titles:
Immediate Family by Sally Mann
Son by Christopher Anderson
Dorchester Days by Eugene Richards
Home Truths: Photography and Motherhood by Susan Bright
Shoot the Family curated by Ralph Rugoff
Feminist Art and the Maternal by Andrea Liss
The Reluctant Father by Phillip Toledano
Tierney Gearon: The Mother Project a film by Jack Youngelson and Peter Sutherland