4 Inspirational Mothers in Modern Photography

By Angela Son on May 12, 2013

Meet these five inspirational mothers in modern photography.

1. Intimacy

Courtesy of the Guardian

“I’ve learned to take ­pictures while I’m living my life, to capture things almost by accident. Some photographers gain something by carefully planning things out, but I don’t,” Israeli American photographer Elinor Carucci said in an interview with the Guardian. Her works are often autobiographical. This one, for instance, was taken on the self-timer after her mother had just taken a bath and was getting dressed. Intimacy is an ubiquitous concept of mothers in modern photography. But the intimacy of this moment is brilliantly preserved in the mother’s posture as well as the conversation, as Carucci said,

“She was going on and on about how to get guys, how all they want is sex, and how to wear a push-up bra. It was so funny.”

2. Blessed Art Thou among Women

Courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art

Gertrude Käsebier’s portrait of a friend’s wife, Agnes Lee, makes her one of the first mothers in modern photography, as it was photographed in 1899. The adorable bow and sartorial cut of Peggy’s shirt, as well as the mother’s white gown, enthuses our imagination of the rest of this style Boston mansion. The biblical title and painting on the wall reinforce the Victorian ideology on motherhood. The photograph was published in Camera Notes (July 1900) and in the first issue of Camera Work (January 1903), according to the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

3. Hannah Erdrich-Hartmann and Jana-Maria Hartmann, Düsseldorf 1987

Courtesy of Tate Modern

A few things about this picture stood out to me, such as the lack of context, subjects staring right at the audience, and the close up. The absence of friendliness of the mother, to me, seems to foreshadow her protection against the child in mothers in modern photography.

The lack of context makes this picture interesting. Thomas Struth presents the mother and child, not as a part of the larger environment but in close up of just the two. This close-up composition speaks the intimacy, trust, and love between the mother and child. They both stare at the audience, looking out of the image, their faces unreadable, and giving the impression of a fleeting image.

4. Migrant Mother

Courtesy of the Library of Congress

One of the inspirational American mothers in modern photography is a migrant mother. Dorothea Lange in 1936  photographed migratory farm labors in California for the Resettlement Administration, according to the Library of Congress. Lange pictured Florence Owens Thompson, the hungry and desperate mother, and her children in their tent.

I did not ask her name or her history. She told me her age, that she was thirty-two. She said that they had been living on frozen vegetables from the surrounding fields, and birds that the children killed. She had just sold the tires from her car to buy food. She seemed to know that my pictures might help her, and so she helped me. There was a sort of equality about it. (From: Popular Photography, Feb. 1960).

Angela is a student journalist in love with languages, travel and music. She blogs at The Uloop News about the English language, gender, fashion, and travel experiences. Her works have appeared in Art Animal magazine, Smashion blog, What the F magazine, and The Michigan Daily.

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