Dear Photographers: Stop Censoring Motherhood

If you are on facebook or Istagram and are a mama, or know one, there is a chance you've seen the phrase and hashtag "#stopcensoringmotherhood" in response to their poilicies on images of women and their children. Account after account are taken down due to "violation of terms and conditions," which is hardly ever true. There is controversy over rather images should be seen as child pornography because a baby booty is showing or a child is running around in their undies. And someone... SOMEONE has a problem with boobs. Not these, these, these, these, or these (or several other thousands of pages dedicated to the degrigation of women, sex slavery, and pornography) just ones that feed human babies. Now there are lots of commentators on this matter, so I'll just continue by saying that this is not what this post is about. Because when it comes down to it, there are plenty of people to wag their finger at Mark Zuckerberg (and whoever didn't teach him how to be a proper human). The leader of this pack being the amazing woman behind 4th Trimester Bodies. (sign her petition here) No, this post is about something bigger than what The Stir is telling us is important. It starts with that, but there are only a handful of Cosmo, Redbook, and Vogue DP's and editors. But there are hundreds of thousands, if not millions of amateur and professional photographers world wide who's work you will probably never see on the grocery store check out end cap. And of those hoards of photographers, some of them, like myself, specialize in "Celebrating Motherhood." You know the shtick, "Bellies, Babies, Birth and Breastfeeding" And this work you will see! It's everywhere you look these days because, well, it's about time! We are of a generation who is not "condemned" to be at home like our frontier mothers, and don't turn our noses up at being called "mama" like some of our bra burning matriarchs. We have found the balance of selflessness and liberation that can be found quite uniquely in the role of Mother. We deserve to be celebrated.

As World Breastfeeding Week approaches, my inbox is full of inquiries from other photographers wanting to know how to get in on this "nursing photography gig." Almost all have the purest intentions, and it is great to see that this genre is sky-rocketing like it is. During our conversations and mentoring sessions, one question gets asked pretty frequently "How do you feel about photoshop?"

Three years ago when I found my little Liquify and Warp tool in photoshop... my life changed. I WAS THE MASTER OF ALL THE PICTURES. Take that double chin out here, raise that booty here, tummy tuck here, oh, you're welcome ma'am, I just got rid of that extra 75 pounds you are carrying. And then it happened, I client emailed me saying "Thank you. I hardly recognize myself... " *Me thinking to myself, '"I KNOW, I'M AWESOME RIGHT?!"* She continued with "I was wondering if I could have the original files instead of the photoshopped ones." Oh ouch.

I called her, embarrassed and truly sorry. She said that I made her feel as if her body wasn't worth photographing. She felt that by photoshopping her body - which she knew was carrying extra weight - I was saying she wasn't as beautiful as my other clients. That I had to make her look like other women to "fit in my portfolio." Her call changed the way I edit images.

We photographers hear it every time we pull the camera up to our eyes "You can just photoshop that out later, right?" And everyone laughs and moves on and yeah, you photoshop "it" out later. Every time my husband takes pictures of me and I upload them I think... DAAAANG MAE, ENUFF of the brownies already. Go for a run or something." And I want to click on that little liquefy tool so badly. I mean, in less than 30 seconds I can take my body and do THIS to it

Photoshop Skinny Col(this photograph was edited like this specifically for this post)

And it's a helluva lot easier to do than actually work out! But then I think about what I told the next client I shot after my mind was changed about photoshop. The client asked "You can just photoshop all this out later, right?" And we laughed, and I nodded, and then I looked at her and said "You know, your friends know what you look like, your children know what you look like. Why would you want to change that? You are beautiful!"

If we truly are appalled at Hollywood's portrayal of "the perfect body" as women, and we truly "celebrate motherhood" as photographers, we must offer beautiful, quality, and authentic artwork for our clients. By professional communication before your session to learn what your client wants from her images, overseeing wardrobe, and having the knowledge and confidence to pose and shoot your clients in a flattering manner, you should be able to achieve this without the use of our frenemies Liquify and Warp.

I know there will be those who will respond to this, "THEN WHY EDIT YOUR IMAGES AT ALL?!" Well, because the color of the sky didn't turn out exactly like I want it, and dang it all if the mom didn't get a pimple the day before her session, and wouldn't you know it, Dad was blinking in all but one of these with all the kids together.

Please, please, PLEASE, don't misunderstand me here. I'm not saying photoshop is evil and you are a jerk for using it. How a photographer utilizes their post processing varies from genre to genre, photographer to photographer. Lifestyle photographers may not touch a thing, fine art photographers may not leave a pixel untouched. Then there are those like myself who "tip toe the line between lifestyle and fine art" using sessions to represent and/or replicate an authentic moment. I'm saying that if you are going to celebrate your clients who are mothers through photographs, then do so by giving them pictures of what they look like and who they are. The difference between delivering images to your clients that leave them unable to recognize themselves and delivering images that show them the beauty they didn't realize they possessed are two very different things. We can radically change the image of motherhood by simply offering up it's authenticity.