Excerpted text from Momma Love introduction:
Momma Love is not only about the love a mother shows. It’s about the love she is shown, by herself and the world around her.
We all feel an undeniable pull toward our mother’s love. If the bond between you and your mother was strong and healthy, it created a space of unparalleled safety and comfort for you. If it was distorted or missing, you’ve probably spent a lifetime coming to terms with that fact, seeking it out or letting it go. Either way, mother love is profoundly symbolic and powerful—so much so that entire religions, mythologies, and classic works of literature are built around either the sanctity or the destructive power of it. Societies need “Momma Love” in order to survive, but very often don’t know how to take care of it properly.
The details and rituals of motherhood largely go unnoticed and are taken for granted. They are talked about among mothers in private places—in toy-strewn living rooms, in kitchens, or over the phone while a child throws a tantrum on the floor nearby. To an outsider, motherhood seems like a profoundly important secret society, one that I started this project to understand more fully.
Each woman I photographed for this project has the truth of her experience to offer. In creating this book I have attempted to bring a community to light, creating a patchwork-quilt of advice, empathy, reflection, commiseration, opinion, anger, assurance, and love. In order to nurture healthier mothers and a healthier society, honest conversations about the realities of motherhood and how mothers are treated are necessary.
Thankfully, my attempts to steer these photos away from typical portraits of women smiling and hugging their children were met with great enthusiasm, on the part of both the mothers and the children. I took this as a testament of their desire to acknowledge and maybe even honor the complexity of their relationships. Often, after an interview was done, the subject came to me nervously, concerned that in the process of revealing her ambivalence, struggles, or conflicts regarding motherhood, she hadn’t made it clear how much she adored her children. All I could tell her was what I believe, in no uncertain terms: Admitting to the complexity of the situation doesn’t negate love. On the contrary, if you’re committed to someone in spite of it being hard, it might just be evidence of a more powerful kind of love.
Ali Smith: FULL EXHIBIT HERE