Where I Teach on Tuesdays: As it Goes

I teach a middle school photo class once a week in a public New York City middle school, and I’ve been photographing there and at similar schools. The schools speak with the same visual vocabulary but time and students personalize the walls. Assimilation, teenage rebellion: institutional architecture, teenage dismay – and hearts.

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Birth Culture on Slate.com

Slate published an interview with me and a selection of my Birth Culture photographs. I’m so glad to have had the chance to explain why I care about this project, and to share the work widely. I’m amazed and happy about the response it’s gotten – 24,000 shares on Facebook!

Much like death, the subject of birth is often taboo, a fact of life that is rarely explored beyond established procedure. Proujansky has been fascinated by the various ways in which each culture she has explored approaches birth but said that in the United States, gender and generation often dominate the conversation.

“We have ideas about what women’s bodies are for and it’s not this,” she said about American views on birth. “You see a woman naked but her body is performing functions that are intense. Our culture has a weird thing about images of women’s bodies doing this kind of physical work that isn’t young and sexy; birth has elements of struggle, power, transformation and mortality that don’t fit with our ideas about women’s bodies: they’re ok to look at when they’re sexy but when they’re working it’s something else. Birth is uncontrolled and that freaks us out.”

She also feels it ties into the idea of how we view motherhood.

“We sometimes celebrate mothers and put them on a pedestal and they’re supposed to be self sacrificing with an endless well of love but we also have stereotypes about them being intellect free with snide jokes about mom jeans and soccer moms.”

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Where I Teach on Tuesdays

I taught an after-school photography class to some New York City middle school students last year. I’ve been teaching classes in under-served schools like this on-and-off for a decade, and last year I started shooting with a phone camera. As I looked at what I’d seen, I realized I was photographing school archetypes and the way they illustrate containment and control of desires: the core of the middle school experience, and a cornerstone of education in general. More coming this school year…

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The Mind’s Eye

I’ve just promised to read a book on the critical theory of photography each month this year.

It’s the kind of thing I always want to do but never think I have the time. But Jo Lien, a photographer and English professor in Idaho, created a blog circle and it was just the commitment device I needed.

We started off with Henri Cartier Bresson’s The Mind’s Eye, and the quote that stayed with me was this: “[Photography] is putting one’s head, one’s eye, and one’s heart on the same axis.”

I recently photographed a stay-at-home father and his corporate lawyer wife for my project on Women’s Work. HCB’s words helped me ignore my thoughts that I should be photographing something grittier, or breaking news-y, or farther away from myself. I feel strongly about birth and other kinds of women’s work, and it’s relevant to my life.

My head is curious, my eye is interested, and my heart is full when I photograph these things. So on I go.

Here are some photographs of Aaron, Miki and baby Oliver during their evening routine: dinner, bath, and a family reading of Harry Potter. A framed picture in their living room says:

The measure of a man is not the size of his
paycheck, the car that he drives or the
clothes that he wears.

It is the strength of his hands that hold
you close, the intensity of his smile when
he looks at you and the size of his heart
that will always love you.

I love you, dad. Oliver

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Feel free to read the other blogs in this circle, starting with Annie Morris’ post (her photographs are dreamy and beautiful, and she lives in one of my favorite places in the entire world).

All of It: Daily Life

Picking the kids up from daycare, training for a run in honor of a friend lost to leukemia, bathing a child – small actions that add up to a life.

(More photographs of Jen as a working mother here.)

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All of It: First Day at Daycare

But before she went back to work, Jen had to get through dropping her baby off for his first day at daycare. The morning was hectic and rushed, but everyone made it out of the house (and Jen remembered all of her breast pump supplies).

She looked forward to being around other people and using her intellect more, but she felt a strong pull toward her kids as she left them at a local daycare. Jen’s working two days a week now, but her days in the office are intense and the work tends to leak into her days at home with baby Wiley.

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All of It: Back on the Job

And then working mother Jen was back at work, running a press conference about discriminatory policing, speaking to members of the media, and pumping (and washing breast pump parts in the sink). Jen pushes herself hard at work and in her personal life.

She was glad to be back working on a cause she cares deeply about, but felt the pressure to get a long list of tasks done in the two days her baby is at daycare each week, and wondering if she could ever feel she was doing enough for her children and job.

(More photos of Jen navigating the expectations of career and motherhood here.)

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