Jazmine is my friend of 15 years, I was excited to photograph her first pregnancy and chose the photos that were all about rainbows and unicorns as my final edit. Lucky for me, she had none of that. She called me out on editing her reality and called me out on it HARD. Since the email we changed the selection of the photos.
I still feel like explaining so I guess it's my turn to write a long email. ;)
I had all the pictures open and was flipping back and forth through them while I writing my statement. It took me hours and hours - I really took my time to examine them and put my thoughts into words about them. The hardest thing about the pictures and writing the statement, was looking at my pregnant pictures and seeing all the doubts and reservations about being pregnant so visible on my face. When I was pregnant, I'd always get asked the annoying question "are you excited?" And it bugged the shit out of me because, I wasn't. I was scared shitless, I was doubting myself, my decision, my ability to be a good mother, to be a "natural" at it, - the list goes on and on. And when I looked at the pregnant photos, that's all I could see. You had captured that perfectly, and the photos were an exact mirror of that headspace. A part of me felt guilty for that, for not enjoying every minute of my pregnancy and just feeling all happy and namaste about it. That's what was so overexposing about the pictures, and that's what felt vulnerable to me about them. Once you're a mother, everyone thinks its fucking roses, even when you're pregnant. They ask you if you're excited, they stop you and ask personal questions in the fucking grocery aisle even though they don't know you; they ask you if you like being a mother over dinner, as if its the kind of question you discuss over pizza, as family acquaintances.
In your edits, every pregnant picture of me, except for one, is of me smiling. In my head, when we were doing the shoot, I saw it as an opportunity to be my raw self... To show my true emotions with the experience and transition of becoming a mother. So when I wrote the statement, I was comparing the pictures of me pregnant - specifically, the ones that showed my doubt, my fears, and my apprehension, to the ones with Finn that seemed happier and lighter.
Whenever I showed up to an art modeling gig, I always thought of it as me and the photographer, creating art together. So I guess, even when doing this shoot, it wasn't that I was "modeling" my fears/worries, but rather I was showing up raw and that, that rawness would be received still as art even when the pictures aren't all chipper and nice. Anyone could've taken pictures of me pregnant and smiling - I went to you, for this project, because that's not how I truly felt inside.
When I saw your post and saw which photos you picked I had two initial reactions.
The first reaction was my ego/model reaction of, if you were going to go for the more traditional type photos of a woman smiling and being pregnant - than of course me being vain, I wish I looked better in the ones you picked.
And the second reaction, the more complicated one that took a minute to put into words, is that these edits don't match the spirit, or the words, that I wrote in my statement.
It has taken me so long to write this statement… to be able to look at these pictures and understand how to interpret what I was looking at – or rather, who I was looking at. I am certain only that I still do not know. It is so hard to write a statement when all I can see are the questions on my face. Your birth being the only definitive moment of this journey. I remember my midwife, still absent after 11 hours of labor, texting me saying she was on her way from another birth and “was I ready?” Tiffin sleeping in the other room, me pacing between the two rooms asking out loud, “Am I ready? – Am I ready? Why is she asking me? – I’ve never done this before – how do I know if I’m ready? – What does she mean?
… It was almost instantaneous that I felt you – This Amazing Spirit – drop me into Momma mode. “Jazmine – are you ready? I am ready. I am ready. I am ready.” It was my mantra, my call, my one definitive moment. I called out loud to the Universe – I instinctively started to bless our space, clear our space, pray over our space, protect our space, own my space. I felt the strength of a thousand suns. I was ready and I knew it.
Every time I’ve looked at these pregnancy photos I’ve felt indifferent. Tonight, I looked at them and I laughed. I can finally read my face and the questions seem completely valid, as well as naively humorous. Yesterday, at your 2 nd birthday party someone asked me if I liked being a mother. was completely stumped and slightly taken off guard in the setting, and all I could say was “well that’s an interesting question and I’m not sure how to answer.”
When we took these photos, the reason why I was taking them was a no brainer. A former nude art model for the past 8 years, it would’ve been almost sacrilegious to not document my body during this transformation. However, receiving myself in this way, in this state, was a mirror I didn’t know how to make sense of. Where did all these doubts come from? Why are the questions so obviously written on my face? And truthfully – Will I like being a mother? Did I make the right choice and well shit, even if I didn’t – WE ARE HERE NOW. I got this, it’ll be OK.
When I received the second set of pictures, I can tell in my face that the awe of my son had obviously eased my fears and doubts a little. Over these past 2 years as I get further away from this moment in time, I can see how she captured my honeymoon stage with creating life, as well as the excitement and wonder of what is to come on both my son and I’s face. I think for a very long time I have felt overly exposed by these photos in away I wasn’t sure how to share. As an art model, I usually feel empowered when I see naked photos of myself - a body I know well and recognize, a face usually hidden or void of true emotion, and a finished product that I feel is worthy of the fine art world (if the photographer and I are lucky that day).
With these photos so much of that is out the window. The photographer, one of my oldest and closest friends, is not just making art – she’s coming along with me in this journey. She’s reflecting 12 years of Jazmine, right back to me. This 20, 25, 27 year old Jaz who swore she’d never have kids. Except now I am 31 and in front of her camera – a place I know well - but I’m pregnant. You are seeing me raw, vulnerable, and full of doubt. You are seeing me surprised, happy, glowing – Mother. You are seeing me with nothing but light and my emotions and that has been slightly terrifying.