PDN Photo of the Day

Motherhood Flies By

Stop Here, This is the Place – a Year in Motherland, published last month by Down East Books, is a collaboration between two mothers and friends: photographer Winky Lewis and writer Susan Conley, who are neighbors in Portland, Maine. Over the course of a year, the pair traded ideas in pictures and words—every week, Lewis sent Conley a photo, usually showing their children at home, on the street in their quiet neighborhood or in the lush Maine landscape; in return, Conley wrote responses, short fragments that suggest memories from a real or imagined childhood. In one, a view of a little hand picking blackberries is paired with a reference to William Carlos Williams’s famous poem: “This is just to say/I have eaten the black raspberries that were in the field/so tart and so sweet/and which you were probably hoping were for dessert.” Others hint at the brevity of childhood. In another, a black and white photo of a girl’s face hidden behind a sheer scrim of hair is paired with text that reads, “In school I learned the word chrysalis. It means outer shell, the place where the butterfly turns into an adult. The hard casing. My shell is soft like silk after I shuck corn. Gossamer. My teacher said when the butterfly hatches, its wings are like this word, gossamer. So delicate you can’t touch them or they’ll break.”

Together the words and pictures suggest an idyllic childhood seen tinged with nostalgia, a sense that this spell won’t last. In a statement, the authors allude to the swift movement of time during the project: “The mothers saw each other sometimes dozens of times a day — exchanging kids and dogs and emergency cups of coffee, but they never spoke about their experiment. There wasn’t time. Their lives often felt like they were spinning just ever so slightly out of control — like maybe motherhood was just one big race with no visible finish line. But what happened while they weren’t looking was that their experiment began to slow time down. All the little marriages of words and image said, Stop Here. Because motherhood flies by.”

Related Stories:
Portrait of a Mom
Nothing But Flowers
Rachel Papo’s Look at Homeschooled Children (for PDN subscribers; login required)

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