Photographer Elinor Carucci has spent the last 10 years working on her most recent show and book, Mother, documenting her family life. Her images are relatable, real, powerful, moving. If you can make it to her show in NYC which is up until May 3, do. If you can’t, look through the images on her gallery’s site. Buy her book. I’m not just saying this because I have been lucky to know Elinor for the last decade and I adore her–I think any parent will appreciate these images for how they stop you in your tracks. For me, they make me think about every moment, the passage of time, and really how precious each moment is. (Even the awful ones.) A little bit of history on her–she grew up in Jerusalem, and after graduating from school there with a degree in photography, she moved to New York. She’s had a number of solo and group exhibitions, her photographs are included in the collections of MOMA, the Brooklyn Museum of Art, Houston Museum of Fine Art, and her work has been featured in lots of magazines, including The New York Times Magazine, The New Yorker, New York Magazine, and W. She currently teaches at the graduate program of photography at School of Visual Arts. We feel very lucky that we got her to squeeze us in and answer some questions from us.
Give us a little background on the book and the show.
This is the first solo show really launching Mother, it’s my third monograph and Mother is almost a decade of work starting with when I got pregnant with twins, a boy and a girl, in 2003 and until about a year and a half ago. It was a natural continuation of my work Closer and Diary of a Dancer, both were bodies of work that were drawn out of my life and the things I went through. It’s about being a mother, being a child, being a parent.
Bath, 2006, courtesy of Edwynn Houk Gallery
Emmanuelle Having Her Hair Cut, 2007, courtesy of Edwynn Houk Gallery
Why Can’t You Be Nicer to Your Brother?, 2012, courtesy of Edwynn Houk Gallery
Monday Morning Mother of Two, 2012, courtesy of Edwynn Houk Gallery
Throughout history we have seen parenthood depicted in Madonna and child images, mostly created by male artists. And a lot of what we see today in popular culture is the celebrity photographs–sometimes a couple of weeks after giving birth, and yet somehow everyone is shown as perfect and thin and beautiful and smiling. These images that we get from art and the media–they made me angry—what I wanted was to portray the beauty and the magic and the love and the pain and the bad days and the fights and the successes. I wanted to photograph it all. For me, especially after I gave birth and started experiencing the complexity of motherhood I wanted to create work that wasn’t only about the façade.
How old are your kids?
My son Eden and daughter Emmanuelle were born in 2004.
Eden and Emmanuelle #2, 2011, courtesy of Edwynn Houk Gallery
Do you work in a home office, and if you do, how do you deal with working from home (while parenting)?
I do work at home, for financial reasons—I can’t afford renting the space and then a babysitter on top of that. But I don’t deal effectively with the setup. Some of my most regrettable moments have been dealing with work at home–I sometimes I snap, yell at them, lose my patience, and then I regret it and ask their forgiveness.
Do you have any advice for us parents on how to capture our kids the best?
Since I have been shooting my kids professionally since they were born—they just go on with what they are doing. I set up the light when the kids aren’t there—some strobes etc, and my kids are used to it. I want moments that contain emotion and connection and intimacy. There is pain for all parents in watching our kids grow up so quickly.
Brushing Hair, 2012, courtesy of Edwynn Houk Gallery
Do you travel for work and how do you manage parenting while traveling?
Traveling for work is very challenging for me. Many times I feel when I get an assignment that requires is travel, it’s the time before that is the worst…the planning that it takes (organizing playdates, after school setup, lists for my husband.) Then I go on assignment and it’s the easy part—it is good to have time on my own and to miss them and to be the person I was before I became a mom.
38 Years Old, 2009, courtesy of Edwynn Houk Gallery
How does it feel raising two kids in NYC?
Most of my family and my husband’s are in Israel—so all of our relatives are there. In the beginning it felt like a vacuum, but we have an amazing community of our PS41 school and our friends. I moved here 20 years ago so I don’t know how I would feel raising kids in Israel. I love the diversity and the openness here.
A Doll in a Box, 2010, courtesy of Edwynn Houk Gallery
What’s your weeknight family dinner routine?
I’m not a cook so dinners are very simple, but we always sit together. I make sure we always eat salad or cut vegetables first. Then pasta or chicken. But we always sit together and that is very precious.
How do you celebrate your kids’ birthdays?
The childrens’ birthdays are in August so we are always in Israel. So we have a party for the family when we are there, and in recent years, in May or June my kids have asked for an early birthday slumber party. In the beginning I was horrified–but it was actually beautiful and for a minute I was imagining myself with 6-8 kids, which is crazy but it was beautiful to see those happy faces and hear all those sweet voices.
What’s a typical weekend like?
We always swim at the YMCA. We do the kids’ Hebrew lessons over the weekend—my husband and I teach them. Always a lot of playdates. No classes. Very loose. There are so many after school things during the week that on weekends we wake up whenever we want to and try not to be running around too much.
Do you have a fail-safe beauty product or routine?
I don’t have time to do much so my main thing is I wash my face well and moisturize and I put a strong lipstick color on and that is it.
The Woman that I Still Am #2, 2010, courtesy of Edwynn Houk Gallery
Best family trip?
Every family trip! I just love traveling with the family. Even if just for my weekend photography workshops. Or weekend trips in the summer to a school friends’ beach house.
You feel your best when?
I feel my best when I see my children happy. It is a precious feeling.
Sleeping! I sometimes go to sleep at 9 and I hear my husband putting the kids to bed—getting their teeth brushed, prepping their backpacks for the next morning, and getting them to fall asleep– and I just can’t wait up.
Best parenting advice you ever got?
To accept yourself and forgive yourself. I feel that as a mother, motherhood got the best of me. I’m amazed by the level of love and the intensity of emotions I have for my children. I never knew those sides of me existed. But when I lose my temper and I scream or don’t want to deal with them it also brings the worst of me. I do my best and I try (not always succeeding) to accept myself.
Mother, 2012, courtesy of Edwynn Houk Gallery
A solo show of this work is exhibited at Edwynn Houk Gallery in NYC in March 2014 through May 3rd.