As an artist, I am constantly trying to challenge myself. I want my work to continue to evolve but stay true to my mission of making pregnant women feel beautiful about their bodies and their experience. In 2004, I wanted to explore working with several women over the entire forty weeks of their pregnancy. I thought that it would be inspiring to discuss with them what they were going through mentally, emotionally and physically and then go into the studio and document it using movement, fabric, focusing techniques and film.
I met Janet Ko in 2004. She answered our call for pregnant women to document for forty weeks. After interviewing what seemed like hundreds of moms, she stood out in the crowd. She was 44, had a small child, and had had some medical complications during her first pregnancy. She was completely present during our initial interview, honest, emotionally available and articulate about her experiences. She was also a former modern dancer. I knew she would be the perfect woman to work with, who could clearly communicate her experiences during the previous four months well enough for me to make some photographs.
My intention for this section “Our Mother’s Stories” has been to do an interview and then write a brief essay. But I was reading through Janet’s journals that she kept for me during the forty weeks and I felt it was best to post her own words. The photos that accompany this essay were taken during the early stages of her pregnancy.
Born and raised in New Orleans, Jenna Bommer has a soft and gentle Southern accent that only reveals itself when she says certain words. She and her husband Jason met in New Orleans in 1992 and eventually moved to Seattle in 1998. I have known Jenna since 2002. Now pregnant with her third baby, Jenna has commissioned me to photograph all three of her pregnancies.
Jenna and I met to go through her proofs from our shoot on the day after the second anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. She was almost due and couldn’t eat much because of extreme heartburn. She seemed quiet. When I asked her how she was, she was thoughtful with her reply, saying she had spent the anniversary thinking about the horrible things the people from her hometown had endured and their suffering. She said, “if you are from New Orleans, everyone you know has a story.” But she was quick to comment about how blessed her family was compared to the many families who are still struggling almost two years later.
I met Jodi and her husband Mark in Seattle in May of 2009. I was in the middle of a crazy travel schedule that was a combination of book tours, photographing clients in my different studios and caring for my father who just had surgery and lived in a remote part of South Dakota. Fourteen airplanes in less than two weeks was pushing even my limits to stay centered. And while I was having a great time, I made sure to keep up with my morning dog walks, meditations and workouts at the gym so that this frenetic energy didn’t spill over into my studio time with my clients where I like to be calm and relaxed. My photography sessions start with me relaxing in my chair, pen in hand to take notes, and my clients sitting on the couch looking at my work. I like to get to know the people who I am about to create something with.
Jodi briefly touched on the fact that she had a difficult pregnancy at the beginning of our session as we were getting to know each other. I know getting pregnant, staying pregnant and the actual pregnancy isn’t easy for many of my clients. Expectations are sometimes vastly different from the reality of the pregnancy and birth. So this wasn’t new to me to listen and empathize with a mom having a particularly difficult time. Jodi didn’t elaborate and seemed to take it in stride. She emanated a grace and strength that she was just going to get through it, and not let it bring her down.
I saw them ten weeks later to show them their beautiful proofs from our session together. It wasn’t until they returned with a beautiful little girl that I realized how truly special and inspiring a woman Jodi is, AND what a truly difficult and challenging pregnancy, birth and post-partum she had endured and was still enduring.