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Archive for the ‘motherhood bliss’ Category

The Bad Mother letters usually raised the question of informed consent. But the kids were visually sophisticated, involved in setting the scene, in producing the desired effects for the images and in editing them. When I was putting together “Immediate Family,” I gave each child the pictures of themselves and asked them to remove those they didn’t want published. Emmett, who was 13 at the time, asked me to exclude one picture from the book. He had been playing Bugs Bunny and fell asleep still wearing nothing but long white socks on his arms, meant to look like the white legs of a rabbit. He was uncomfortable not because of the nudity but because he said those socks made him look like a dork. It was a question of dignity.

Maintaining the dignity of my subjects has grown to be, over the years, an imperative in my work, both in the taking of the pictures and in their presentation. As my father weakened with brain cancer, I tried to photograph him, in the manner of Richard Avedon or Jim Goldberg, whose work I admire. But I put away my camera when I began to see that photographing his loss of dignity would cause him pain. (Once, after his death, I was asked what he had died from, and I replied, “Terminal pride.”) I did not take a picture on the day that Larry picked up my father in his arms and carried him like a child to the bathroom, both of their faces anguished. To do so would have been crossing a line.

It’s hard to know just where to draw that stomach-­roiling line, especially in cases when the subject is willing to give so much. But how can they be so willing? Is it fearlessness or naïveté? Those people who are unafraid to show themselves to the camera disarm me with the purity and innocence of their openness.

Larry, for example. Almost the first thing I did after I met Larry Mann in 1969 was to photograph him, and I haven’t stopped since. At our age, past the prime of life, we are given to sinew and sag, and Larry bears, with his trademark stoicism, the further affliction of a late-­onset muscular dystrophy. In recent years, when many of his major muscles have withered, he has allowed me to take pictures of his body that make me squirm with embarrassment for him. I call this project “Proud Flesh.” In taking these pictures, I joined the thinly populated group of women who have looked unflinchingly at men, and who frequently have been punished for doing so. Remember poor Psyche, chastised by the gods for daring to lift the lantern that illuminated her sleeping lover. I can think of numberless male artists, from Bonnard to Weston to Stieglitz, who have photographed their lovers and spouses, but I have trouble finding parallel examples among my sister photographers. The act of looking appraisingly at a man, studying his body and asking to photograph him, is a brazen venture for a woman; for a male photographer, these acts are commonplace, even expected.

One of the most intelligent discussions on mothers creating art and documenting the lives of their children in public that I’ve yet seen. Sally Mann’s Exposure in The New York Times.

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When I’m broken I am whole

Bjork in “The Invisible Woman: A Conversation with Bjork” by Jessica Hopper in Pitchfork.

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I was very flattered to be a guest writer for Meanjin this week for their series on writers reading. I was told to be very reflective on my year and.. I was that. Eek.

There’s a small child in the bed with us. I hold the sheet over me and reach down blindly to find clothes on the floor. Under the sheet I slip my underwear and t-shirt back on. So, this is dating now.

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My latest article is here.

Speaking of personal stories, Latham has an interesting story, too. He’s a stay-at-home father with a wife working outside the home. Having made the transition from political leadership to primary caring he might offer an insightful perspective, instead, he seems clouded by a kind of defensive masculinity. And his hostility towards feminist parenting is curious when you consider Latham’s own role reversal is exactly the kind of freedom feminists are seeking as an option to be available for more parents. But critiquing parenting has long been an underhand route for simply censuring women.

Women well know that when male commentators talk about women’s lives they are prone to holding unexamined views that run contrary to one another. So, being the primary parent has allowed Latham to see the hoax that fathers can’t be nurturing, but somehow mothering is still essentialist enough for inner-city feminists to be capable of running a secret campaign to “free themselves from nature’s way”. And further, mothers who take their experiences seriously enough to write about them are “self-absorbed”, but to not take them seriously is to be “breeding a generation of shirtless, tone-deaf, overweight, pizza-eating dummies”. Although Macdonald, apparently, manages to do both.

 

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Quotes from Ariel Gore’s The End of Eve: A Memoir:

My mother stared ahead into the rain. I knew her well enough to know that she always had an agenda, but sometimes part of her agenda was pretending she didn’t have an agenda.

I thought of my Gammie, and the way she’d pour herself a nice, tall vodka tonic whenever she saw my mother enter a room and sip her drink and whisper under her breath, “If there isn’t chaos, there soon will be”.

I didn’t know if the cure for my life was to lie to everyone about everything or to become brutally honest.

And I didn’t want to say too much because, inexplicably, I still wanted people to like her.

This was supposed to be a book about a typical caregiver – a daughter with children of her own trying to help her terminal if eccentric widow-mother through a final year. But now here we were mid-narrative, more than a year gone by, and no one had died and I didn’t have a mother anymore and the semester was wrapping up.

Family and strangers sharing a meal; toothy smiles as if we weren’t all in it for the kill.

Maia lifted her Bloody Mary and shrugged. “Let’s not even list what we’re thankful for this year”.

I remembered when I was pregnant with Maia how terrified I felt that I would abuse her. That I would torment her. And I remembered the flood of relief when I realized unabusive motherhood wasn’t so very hard. That sure – it took a diligence, problably more diligence when emotional violence was my first language. But that in the end it isn’t so hard not to ruin everything we love. It meant deferring to my child when I felt that wit’s-end rage bubble up, meant stepping back to remind myself that she was the baby here, that I was the grown-up. It meant reminding myself to behave in a way I would be proud of. It meant not always needing to be right, apologizing when I was wrong. It meant a lot of pause-taking. But it wasn’t so very hard.

This book was such a great read.

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