Have you ever struggled with finding a balance between creativity, work and motherhood? I certainly have.
Right this minute, as I sit here trying blog about my upcoming photography exhibit at The Museum of Motherhood, the boys are calling me from another room and asking me to read to them and take the seeds out of their watermelon. They want to use the computer and now one of them is creating something loud in the basement. The other one just reminded me that we missed baseball practice on Tuesday and my husband is floating in the air somewhere between Tel Aviv and Cleveland. Seems like I have been searching for a balance between my needs and theirs since people started calling me Mom.
My motherhood story begins right as my photojournalism career was taking off. I was employed by a newspaper and immersed in the all consuming lifestyle. I had never felt more alive. I am a serious people watcher so I absolutely loved being sent to observe people and listen to their stories. Seriously, what could be better?
I remember the moment I learned it was a new life within that was making me terribly sick and cranky. I knew things were going to change and I knew I would choose to stay home with my child. What I didn’t realize was that my journalism background would prove to be useful as a parent and that my experience as a mother would give birth to a new direction in my photography.
I freelanced when my two boys were young and often took them on assignment with me. Our life was like being on a constant field trip so it was a natural transition for us to unschool and approach each day as a group of journalists. We went out into our community, met people, had conversations and asked many questions. I began working with a stock agency and shooting every adventure the boys and I experienced. It was the perfect combination of work, creativity and motherhood for me and it cultivated an enormous amount of wonder and curiosity in my children.
Then I photographed a birth and I was hooked. The mother and child relationship captivates me so I started offering maternity and mother/child portrait sessions. I learned so much from each woman I photographed and it suddenly became clear that motherhood was my muse.
Life went on like this for twelve years in five different cities.
This year, the boys decided they wanted to know what it felt like to be “normal” like the kids who spent their days in a school building. Off they went to fifth and sixth grades at a new charter for the arts and I was left in silence. Quite possibly the first silence I had experienced in twelve years. It was beautiful.
During the first few weeks of this new way of life, I did not know what to do. I labeled myself a recovering homeschool mama and decided to be patient. One day when I checked my inbox, I found a magic email. It was from Hal DuBois, a man who had seen my blog and portfolio. He said that his friend from college, Joy Rose, was the founder of The Museum of Motherhood in New York. He thought she would like my photography and wanted to help us connect.
My immediate reaction was, “Wow! There is actually a Museum of Motherhood?”. I hopped on their webpage to learn more and was seriously inspired. Joy Rose is committed to serving, promoting, celebrating, encouraging, inspiring, and awakening ALL mothers. The facility ,the first and only of its kind, is a mixed- use space that encourages community, conversation and education through workshops, speakers, art, a library, a play space, blogs, music and much more. Joy has been quoted in several articles saying “I find it fascinating that we have marble museums, car museums and mustard museums, but no place dedicated to the profound act of birthing and raising humanity.” Which is a very good point since there is even an International Towing and Recovery Museum in Chattanooga, TN.
When we eventually connected , Joy asked if I would be interested in being the museum’s featured artist during the month of June. I began editing immediately and made my way through sixteen years of work.
Preparing for the exhibit has been an emotional experience for me. As I collected images in a file on my desktop, I heard each of the women’s stories again and felt extreme gratitude that they trusted me enough be open and honest. There is a connection to each of them that will last my entire lifetime.
They have become part of my “tribe.”
Mothers are overlooked and undervalued throughout the world. It is my professional goal to celebrate mothers and assist the agencies and non-profits working towards the same goal. I hope to advocate for women and children through my photography and help strengthen the mother/child relationship.
If you are interested in visiting or learning more about The Museum of Motherhood, information can be found on their website. http://www.mommuseum.org/
You can also contact them by phone. 212.452.9816 / 877.711.MOMS
Hope to see you in New York City this June at The Museum of Motherhood!
About Erin LaBelle
Erin LaBelle is a wife, mama, raw food enthusiast, French teacher and photographer. Until this year she unschooled her two boys who transitioned easily into a charter for the arts. Erin’s post newspaper photographic work is primarily an effort to celebrate the mother/child relationship. A highlight of her career so far was having an image featured as a Mothering Magazine cover. Although her family is extremely nomadic, they are loving life in Kent, Ohio. Erin’s current favorite things are blueberries, lake swimming and the music of Marc Cohn.