Portra, Motherhood & Fields of Light

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CAMERA: CANON ELAN

LENS: 24-105 L

FILM: PORTRA 400 RATED AT 200

 

As a mother I'm often told, "You've got your hands full!" At the grocery store, at the park. If I dare to venture to a small, quiet place that is not the library (note to self: never do this). And it's true. Full hands are occupied; I can't carry other things. Full hands are tired from a load. Awkward in life when the hands are needed - using a foot or an elbow instead. Vision obstructed by the fullness. Peering over what I carry while walking. You've got your hands full! A platitude that can even come off as an insult at times, but at it's best captures a beautiful reality. The opposite of loneliness. Like hands full of money, hands full of love letters. Hands full of film! I'm busy, I'm tired, I can't focus well; but I carry a burden of tremendous value.

Do you photograph well when traveling with your children? We booked an Airbnb in Flagstaff for our anniversary (eight years!) but the girls got sick. Like, no other human should deal with their snot at this stage type of sick. So we packed up their pea coats and brought them along, happy for the change of plans. Photographing them at home is easy; each of us in our familiar space and routine. But while traveling I find it difficult to enter either space with fullness - photographing and mothering. I find the modes totally opposed; mothering as an active, talkative, entertaining, need-meeting mode. And photographing as a silent, open, receptive and importantly solitary mode. As a remedy I take my camera out during specific intervals in which my husband has full command of the girls and their needs. It helps.

For this experiment I shot Portra 400 at one shutter speed (1/125) wide open, hoping again for an easier method than external metering. I rated this roll at 200. Approaching my kids space to take a reading is something I cannot get used to, having shot polaroid and digital for so long. The good news - it worked! The light was tremendous at this particular moment. Diffused by pines and brightly reflecting off the grass. Using one shutter speed enabled me to just shoot - focusing on composition and emotion more than mechanics.

This was Vivian's first time touching snow. Can you remember? I grew up with it in New York so I have a gamut of memories: numb fingers and toes, how it immediately turned to brown slosh, lumpy but respectable snowmen, the first snowfall blanketing the houses on my street. Watching it go by street lamps like a swarm of gnats in one direction. But then and now, how it looks was my favorite part. Vivian was thrilled to embody the things we've read about and watched over the years. Throwing snowballs, bravely making a snow angel and hearing it crunch beneath her feet.

These photographs were made in the swirl of chaos that is two little girls, colds notwithstanding. Whining and falling and running in opposite directions and my bag stuffed with other cameras being too heavy. Throwing a snowball directly at my lens (kid!) and needing noses wiped. Overall I'm pleased with how they turned out! It's hard to go wrong in dappled forest light. These pictures were taken on the Canon Elan that my mom got me at a garage sale for $10. 35mm continues to dazzle me with it's handling of light. The forced waiting of film is good for my body, brain and creativity. Waiting for the moment of intrigue, the leap, the laugh, the pinecone found.

These last few images mean so much to me since I have so few photographs of myself with the girls in comparison to the droves of them alone. I am cherishing this season we're in, especially since Eleanor dropped to one nap and we can actually leave the house for longer than a few hours. We have a new dynamic, the three of us. Not mama and Vivian and baby but now Mama and her girls. They play, they talk, Vivian feeds Eleanor cheerio by cheerio and says, "good job, little duckling." Being their mama can threaten to disintegrate my identity at times... it pushes to me to the limit of my physical endurance and then gives the final enthusiastic shove off the cliff. But I am getting used to it. To the tumbling and stretching; the painful yet fruitful work of nurturing these tiny image bearers to fruition.