Spanning the first decade of her twin children’s lives, Elinor Carucci’s latest monograph,Mother, continues the photographer’s tradition of crafting deeply intimate, honest scenes of personal and family life. Snapshots of sibling fights, subway-train meltdowns, and excursions to McDonald’s alternate with more painterly, classically staged portraits of the two children and Carucci’s own pregnant figure. The body of work exposes the profound changes that child-rearing brought to the photographer’s own life, body, and sense of self, but it serves equally as a celebration of motherhood’s ubiquity, beauty, and spiritual power. With an interview by Juliana Halpert.
Juliana Halpert: Mother features photographs taken over the course of nearly a decade. At what point in this period did ideas for a cohesive project—and book—begin to take shape?
Elinor Carucci: I started shooting when I was pregnant, and I think the crucial moment was after I had the kids. I didn’t know what would happen, in general—in every aspect of my life. So once I realized that I was still making pictures, I felt, after a year, this is something that I can continue to do. It’s possible—I can still think and create, and maybe even more. So then I just committed to it, but I didn’t have a plan for a project.
Five years ago, [publisher] Prestel contacted me, and they saw the work and thought it could be a great book. I felt it still wasn’t ready. But that started the first stage, where [Prestel photography editor] Curt Holtz and I were in touch, and I would send him JPEGs. At some point, I felt that it was ready—it had been almost 10 years.
You have to get out of yourself to create interesting images, and I think being a parent brings that to the extreme. It made me a better photographer, being a mother.
JH: How did the birth of your children influence your creative process?
EC: At the very beginning, it was overwhelming. But thinking creatively was a way to reflect on my life, to pause and think, to help me understand what was going on. I don’t think at any point I stopped. If anything, I became more creative and reflective. I feel that photography is different from other art forms, especially if you’re photographing the world. You have to get out of yourself to create interesting images, and I think being a parent brings that to the extreme. It made me a better photographer, being a mother.