momma love: storytelling through photography

Last week, I mentioned that I was headed to a photography workshop led by photographer Brooke Shaden, whose work looks nothing like mine.  The workshop was everything I could’ve hoped for (I wrote about it here), but there’s one thing in particular that Brooke said that stuck with me.

You see, Brooke’s background is in English and in Filmmaking, and she said that she views her fine art photography as an attempt to condense an entire book (or movie) into a single still image.  She wants people to look at an image she created and immediately feel something resonate in the same way a riveting plotline would move you when reading a great book or watching an epic movie.

I loved this concept, and have been thinking about it ever since, musing how I could do the same with my own photography.  So when the work of Ali Smith hit my inbox this morning, I was immediately struck by how beautifully she is able to do just this.  Her latest book, Momma Love:  How the Mother Half Lives, features “40 women’s portraits and compelling stories about the highs and lows of the motherhood experience” — and compelling they are.  I love how you look at her images and you’re immediately drawn into the story:

This is more than just photojournalism, I think.  Photojournalism freezes an action so that it records a specific moment in time, but these pictures prompt you to ask more of the story:  in the first image, how long has the day been for that mom?  She’s lit a candle for her dinner — is she fastidious about creating a calming scene for her family, even as her daughter tries to lunge for something off-scene?  Do moms really have eyes in the backs of their heads?

Unfortunately, Ali Smith had a bad experience with her publisher, and in order to get the book to print, Ali has started a Kickstarter campaign.  I, for one, will definitely be contributing — in addition to the compelling stories the book promises to tell, I suspect I’ll find a lot of photographic inspiration in there as well.

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