Motherhood

Moms, Are You in the Photos?

Liz Libre

The other day, my friend told me something weirdly life-changing…

Liz Libre

My friend Liz Libré has started asking people, even strangers, to take photos of her with her kids. She’s usually behind the camera but she wants that to change. “I take pictures of my children alllllllll the time,” she says, “but I wanted my arms on them, my body touching them. When I lost my mom, I realized I have a finite number of photos with her. I want to be represented in my camera roll.”

Liz Libre

Now and again, while doing everyday things — walking home from school or eating ice cream cones — she’ll ask passersby to snap a quick photo. “Strangers are happy to help,” she says. “It takes two seconds. No fancy posing or special outfits or holding a smile.” She wants to remember the daily goings on in their lives, including the “sweaty post-park walk,” above.

LaTonya Yvette

Mother-of-two LaTonya Yvette feels the same and jokes that she’s trained her kids to be good photographers, so that they can photograph her with each other. “And it works!” (Her daughter, River, took the photo above.)

LaTonya Yvette

They also snap selfies, and strangers can help take group shots. “Honestly, I am not afraid to ask. I just find people who look friendly. Teenagers are the best and always know all the angles.”

Hana Asbrink

My friend Hana Asbrink loves taking her daughter for pizza. Although she could always photograph just her daughter or the spread, “I’ll ask a waiter to snap our picture,” she says. “I want to remember these dates together.”

Moms, Are You in the Photos?

The smallest moments deserve capturing, too. “I want pictures of the in-between stuff, not just the birthdays or vacations,” says Julie Pearson, a mother of two. “I’ll even have my husband take a photo of me changing a diaper or carrying the stroller down the subway stairs. If I had more pictures of my mom doing these things, that would be so special to me. These are the moments that make your life what it is.”

Moms, Are You in the Photos?

I haven’t been able to stop thinking about this. It’s true that I’m usually the one taking the photos, and, although we have lots of pretty photos of trips and parties, I don’t have many pictures of how I truly see and feel my life as a mother. My #1 thing as a parent are my evening adventures with the boys, before Alex gets home — riding bikes, walking around the block, reading books — yet we have essentially no photos of them. I’d be so grateful for a snapshot or two of those cherished times, no matter how blurry or lopsided, to hold onto forever.

What about you? Which side of the camera are you usually on? Do you have photos of your parents doing everyday things? (I always think this woman captures quotidian moments so beautifully.)

P.S. 11 cool ways to display family photos, and trying out slow parenting.

  1. Laura says...

    I think I have like 2 photos of my daughters crying (a bloodied lip and the other in pain from a broken collarbone). I mean we see fake smiles a lot in photos but let’s also admit to and capture the tears. Now that my oldest is 25, she can only see in 1 photo that life wasn’t always perfect and she fell and cried. It is important to capture the ups and downs.

  2. Jodie says...

    I love this idea. I am constantly behind the camera as a photographer, as was my mother, and feel disappointed by the lack of photos with my baby! Pro tip – buy a Yashica T4 off ebay, it’s nearly impossible to take a bad photo with it and has worked well when passing to strangers if they can somehow remember how to look through a viewfinder.

  3. Lauren says...

    I have the opposite problem, my husband is a photographer and is so incredible about capturing moments of our family, my son, me! I forget, and I am making a seriously better effort at taking photos of him and our son.

  4. Lise says...

    Wow, you’re right, I need to be in these moments not just take photos of them. Glad I’m reading this when she’s 10-months old and not 10-years!

  5. Sarah says...

    I’ve just been to Germany to be at a christening as a Godmother. As the mother was putting on my god daughter’s bonnet, I decided to snap some photos with my phone. You cannot believe the overwhelmingly positive response from the mum and dad when I shared them – I captured their daughter’s smile in an intimate but everyday moment, and it was way better than the countless posed photos later in the day.

  6. Joanna! There is a **wonderful** movement of professional photographers like myself shooting documentary family sessions. They’re longer than a typical session (mine are about 4 hours) and I photograph families doing their everyday stuff with their kids, exactly as you describe, then make a beautiful boon from the photos depicting a regular day. My dear friend and truly talented colleague Francesca Russell Photography & Films is in your neck of the woods. You should look her up! xo

  7. Jelena says...

    Take photos and then make a backup! Yesterday my phone died. Last time I made a backup of my photos was the day before I gave birth to my second daughter 4 monts ago. I cried all day, it will probably hunt me forever that I lost all those precious pictures.

    We also do a montly family selfy, sometimes we are all fancy, sometimes we are in our pijamas, sometimes my hair is greasy and my kids are dirty but I don’t care. That is how we looked like that day and I want to remember it.

  8. I’m a professional photographer and preach about mom getting in the photo all.the.time. But never did this start to be my true anthem until I had my son. There is one photo of just the two of us in the hospital when he was born and it makes me sick that I don’t have more. I should’ve asked. Mamas, always ask, no matter how silly you feel. You will never regret taking the photo but you sure as heck might regret not taking it.

  9. Kate says...

    This made me think of a couple of weeks ago when I went with my mom to pick out a new couch. She still doesn’t understand that you can look up the photos of products online so she insisted on snapping my photo with her phone on all of the couches she was considering. A young man saw her doing this and asked if she’d like for him to take one of us together! At the time we were both cracking up at the idea of having a random photo together on a couch that she didn’t buy but after reading this I kind of wish we’d said yes!

  10. I really needed to hear this today! My mom past away last year and I only have a handful of pictures of her and I together. She always took the photos and never liked having her photo taken. I hadn’t really thought about it until reading this that I am usually the one snapping photos but rarely am in them with my kids. I want to make sure they remember our time together in the beautiful thing we call life!

  11. Margaret says...

    Gosh those photos made me kind of weepy. My kids are so big now – 17, 15 and 11. When I see photos of me with them little I love it. There is a photo of me changing a diaper in Dubrovnik in an ancient pharmacy (maybe europe’s first pharmacy) . And I love it. Recently we watched a movie where I was hardly in it but you could hear my voice. I thought… gosh I was a nice mommy in that video. I’m in a position where I worry I was all business too much, or so stressed and worn out that they did feel my full radiant love. Watching the video I thought – no you were a nice mommy to those babies. Of course my kids seem so big now, but in 10 years right now will have seemed as if they were young… so must remember that and keep taking photos.

  12. Louise says...

    I don’t know why but I honestly teared up while reading this post!! I almost have no pictures of me with my dad (who passed away four years ago), and now that I live in a different country from my mum, I have so few photos of us together too. I’ve vowed to have more photos taken with my twin girls, and I make sure I take photos of them with their dad as well. It’s so easy to get caught up with the busy-ness of life and more often than not, we just remember to take photos of the ‘special occasion’ days. One thing I found very useful was to install this app called ‘Day One’. It’s kind of like a photo journalling thing. It inspires (and pushes) me to take at least a photo a day. Sometimes I only remember to take one when the girls have already fallen asleep, so most of the pictures are of them sleeping haha! But mostly, it’s become part of my day already, and I always make sure I get a photo of us for the day, even if it’s just my hubby reading a bedtime story to them, or the girls taking a bath. It’s so nice to look back on. And if I really want to have a hardcopy memory of these photos, I’m thinking of compiling all these photos and create a photobook through this app called ‘Chatbook’ — haven’t gotten around to it, but it could be a good idea.

  13. Claire says...

    At the age of 23 I lost my mom, the 3rd anniversary of her death is this upcoming Monday. One of my biggest regrets is not having more pictures with her and so I think this idea is amazing! Especially since it captures happy, everyday-life moments – instead of just the fancy events and holidays. I wish I could look back on pictures of her in her favorite sweater or wearing the weird kooky it that I never understood! Love this post and hope to do this with my own kids one day!

  14. YP says...

    This is the cutest. I love it, and will 100% implement it, and spread the word to my mumma friends. ADORBS photos of your contributors.

  15. Heidi says...

    Me too! I even set the self timer when there’s no one else around to take a picture. I really got into taking pictures of the most mundane everyday through Ali Edwards’ Week in the life. It’s brilliant! It really encouraged me to take pictures of even the most every day stuff, like feeding the dog or peeling the potatoes for our dinner.

  16. Tanya says...

    I am a widow and it is almost like I do not exist when I look back at the last few years worth of pictures. I wish I had more pictures of the us in play, cuddles or even the mundane moments to remind me that I was present in the dark days of early widowhood. But I can start now! This is a great idea, thank you!

    • Mamabird says...

      Me too Tanya, and I’m sorry. I also never took a selfie til I was widowed but i do now!

  17. K Singson says...

    This! I ask my husband to always take photos of me with my kids. We just had family photos done and instead of the normal fall colors, we had them done at our favorite coffee place and then walked around the park. It was more us, natural and freeing. My kids are both under 2 and just want to move! Always take the photo. Great reminder.

  18. mamabird says...

    Oh jeez, do this, do this now!
    I lost my Mum when I was 25 and she is in no photos, she also used to bin photos of herself that she didn’t like- most of them! Wish I had more.
    My husband was always the photographer so there’s photos of me…but he died when he was 31 and I have so few photos of him parenting our boys- they were 6 and 8 when he died. He was a stay at home Dad and I wish I had a way to preserve that time they had together when I wasn’t around.

    • ali says...

      so sorry to hear, Mamabird. We just never think they’re going to leave! I’m sure you see him often in your boys’ smiles, but wouldn’t it be great to have more photos to cherish too xxx

    • Sarah says...

      I am so sorry for your loss. You sound like a great mother.

  19. “Teenagers are the best and always know all the angles.” hahaha!!!

  20. KimG says...

    It’s so true that mothers, fathers, we all need to get in the photo, too. We lost a dear family member last year and I’m so thankful that he was in so many photos, always smiling ear to ear and bringing laughter to those around him.

  21. I don’t know why but this makes me teary. I would love a picture of us doing the dinner and night time routine. I know as an adult I love spying pictures of my old beloved toys and books in the background and how intimate my relationship was with those things. I’m sure my daughters would love this too!

  22. I read about this years ago when my oldest were babes. I took a cue from the mom who wrote the article and setup a tripod with remote control on my DSLR in my house. Tickling them on my bed, playing toys on the floor, playing jump to mama and let’s hope I catch you, etc. They are some of my most treasured pictures!

  23. Eleanor says...

    I commented once already, but I keep thinking about this topic, probably b/c I’m on vacation right now. I’ve realized that for me, just as important as being in the picture is being in the memory. I had a lovely childhood, and I love my mother, but I have so many memories of her waiting in the car, or on a beach towel, or taking care of a baby. I try really hard to be in the ocean, in the kayak, on the trail, or in the tent with them, making the memory together. I also want to be in the dojo, beside the track, in the dressing room trying on formals, watching the movies and reading the books they do, fully present, so that we’re living this life together, sharing experiences, and making memories.

  24. Alexis says...

    Hana! I worked with her so briefly years ago. Love seeing how her daughter has grown.
    I love seeing all the Ace & Jig in this post.

    I take a lot of selfies with my son because we have whole days together on the weekends. And I have been encouraging my partner to take more snaps as well… Because I do realize I’m not in any of the photos, and I’m trying to be!

  25. Christiane says...

    This made me quite sad and I had to admit to myself the reason why I am not in many photos with my two girls: because I don´t like myself on most photographs! There are many “excuses” to avoid being photographed: I feel too fat, look too tired or exhausted…I feel so sorry for the many moments I have not captured for these silly reasons. But when I talked to a friend of mine, she surprised me by saying the same…

    • Lisa says...

      I know EXACTLY how you feel. We went to stay with my in laws, and my sister in law took some photos of my son and I at the beach. At the moment, all I can see is the back fat and how pale (and tired) I look, but I’m hoping in time I’ll just see how happy he is on my lap, and I’ll remember a lovely day at the beach.

    • hope says...

      Listen, at one point I always felt the same. Then time moved on and I looked at the rare few photos that existed of me at the time and what a surprise to find that I looked totally 100% fine! Better than expected in most cases to my shock. We just have to get over ourselves usually because if you haven’t worked on your self-esteem you will cut yourself off from ever gaining any appreciation of your self. It negates your experience as a human being to not find the courage to be yourself. One can always use these concerns to take better care of ourselves as well. Consider hiring a pro or hobbyist to take candid shots of you on an afternoon out and about = a friend of mine did that on the shoreline of a local river and they came out SO GREAT!

    • I used to instantly delete photos for the same reason. Then I realized how few photos I was actually in and I promised myself I wouldn’t delete them until a few weeks or months had passed. When I scroll back through my camera roll, I’m usually surprised to see the pictures I thought were awful are actually not bad at all, and sometimes even pretty great.

  26. Bren says...

    It’s so funny you posted this because today I took my kids to this sweet pumpkin patch and they had this house made out of pumpkins! I wanted to take a picture of my kids popping their heads through the little window, and an sweet older woman nearby said “Do you want me to take the picture so you can get in it with them?” and I said “Oh gosh. Really? But I look awful! I just got rained on and my hair is all frizzy!” and she said “You look gorgeous honey, go get in the picture.” Haha! Sure enough I am thankful that I now have a picture of us, frizzy hair and all!

    • Katie W says...

      This made me “awww” out loud! “You look gorgeous honey, go get in the picture.” That is so sweet. I’m always offering to take pictures of strangers with their families, because you never know… the picture you take could be one that the family cherishes for years and years.

  27. Hannah says...

    I am currently overdue with my first baby. I am uncomfortable and grumpy. Twice a week my husband is away for work and one of my parents comes to stay with me on ‘babywatch’. Last week my mum and I took selfies together on our walkand I love them. Nothing special about them other than I am waiting to be a mum and she is still being mine.

    • Chelsea says...

      That’s awesome. (Well, not being overdue, obviously. Hope baby comes soon!)

  28. Lisa says...

    This is so beautiful and reminds me of the quote CoJ posted the other day, that all the repetitive tasks of parenthood are a way of saying “I love you” over and over again. It would be lovely to have pictures of that

  29. Eleanor says...

    I’ve always been the one to take the pictures, so I’m not in as many, although I do ask my husband to take some, esp on vacations. I’ve always tended to overthink how I look, and nitpick myself in those pics, which takes away some of the fun. However, I have teenagers now, and am pulled into tons of selfies, usually without warning or time to worry about my appearance, and I love it. I love that b/c I have to just roll with it, I end up in so many more pics, and I love that they now choose to be photographed with me. I have been the victim of some pretty bad Snapchat filters, though!

  30. I’m a photographer and I am constantly convincing clients to do a motherhood session. It’s so rare for us to be in the pictures and even at family sessions, all too often the dad and kids steal the show. I think it’s very important for moms to see how beautiful they look when tying shoes or wiping noses or doing the things we do all day that feel anything but beautiful. Especially when our kids are little, we get so lost in the mundane that it’s hard to see the beauty. I try to do my part to remind mom’s just how beautiful their lives are.

    • Bec Barnett says...

      We’ll I’m sold! Those pics sound beautiful and do special. I’d love pics of me and my daughter hanging out laundry, walking down to the beach etc. what a wonderful idea.

  31. Liz says...

    For some reason this made me cry (as do most of your posts!). My husband travels extensively for work so I’m usually the one taking photos and I hate that I’m not in them. Great idea to ask strangers to take photos and I’m going to start asking my mom or husband when he’s home to capture some everyday things at home that I hope our kids will cherish one day.

  32. Anna says...

    To this day, I STILL regret not offering to take a photo of 2 parents with their child on the first day of school. It was senior year of college and I was walking to my last first day of school (!) when I passed a mom taking a photo of her son and his father on their way to his first day. I should have offered to take a photo of all three of them so that she was in the shot too. Oh well!

  33. Julia says...

    I’m also guilty of photographing my kids or my husband with our kids, but forgetting to take photos that include me! Just a tip for those special, everyday photos: start a Chatbooks subscription! It’s a photo app where you can make albums out of those special everyday photos on your phone…simply by swiping right or left tinder-style within the app. I love it! My son loves looking at the photos in the books with us. They’re such an upgrade from just looking through old photos on your phone!

  34. Lauren E. says...

    A friend who lost her mother in her teens posted something like this on Facebook around Mother’s Day, and I always remember it when I’m looking through old photos to post on social media for my mom’s birthday. She’s nowhere! She also hated the way she looked (honestly, I look back at old photos of her and cannot believe this – she was absolutely stunning by all accounts) so she never wanted to be photographed. Good thing my brother married a woman who is RELENTLESS about photos and now we have a bunch of us with my mom :)

  35. Pigeon says...

    Busy Toddler (the instgram account–she’s awesome) does this and she calls it Proof of Mom! I love it, and it was such an important thing for me as a mom to remember

  36. Jessica says...

    I tried this! Yesterday my son and I were walking home from preschool and I asked a stranger to take our picture. She was very kind and asked if I wanted anything in particular in the background etc. I said “no” as I knelt down and put my arms around my son and smiled. It was probably the best picture we’ve ever taken together! So easy and fun and great to actually interact with the community in this way instead of the usual rush to get home.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      oh my gosh, jessica! i have tears in my eyes. i love that so much :)

  37. I’m reading this from an auntie’s perspective, and I totally resonate. It’s so easy to want to capture the ideal and photo-worthy moments of your nieces or nephew, but it’s so important to get those photos in the moment, with everyone in it! I think I want to start mastering the art of self-timer too.

    And I also think it’s great to be on the lookout for families who might want photos together! I work at a donut and chai shop in Portland, and I relish in any moment where I can help a mom and her kids out and take photos of all of them. Always keep your eyes peeled, you might just make someone’s day. :)