Why it’s ok to be a “Mom with a Camera”

Ask any photographer, and they will tell you that one of the hardest things about being an artist is taking yourself seriously. Ask any photographer who started as a “mom with a camera,” and they will tell you it’s even harder. The very term “mom with a camera” has been somewhat derogatory, disempowering women and implying that what you are doing isn’t serious or important. But I think we should think about it differently. We can use it as a term of empowerment, something to be proud of.

Elena S Blair self proclaimed mom with a camera.

The truth is, it takes work to take yourself seriously, and it’s work you must do yourself. If you don’t believe in yourself, you can’t expect anyone else to believe in you. The only difference between a “legitimate” photographer and an “illegitimate” photographer is that the “legitimate” photographer believes in themselves. It has nothing to do with where you started or what inspired you to begin. But I do know that this is easier said than done.

Art is personal. When we begin our journey as artists photographing our own children, it feels even more personal. But just because it’s personal doesn’t mean it’s not serious. Just because we are self-taught women doesn’t make us any less important. Just because a tiny human, our first-born child, was our first muse, doesn’t mean there isn’t a place at this table for us.

My “mom with a camera” story

Behind the scenes of elena s blair

I am absolutely and unapologetically a mom with a camera. Over a decade ago, I gave birth to a son. Along with that birth came the birth of my new self. To be quite honest, I was struggling with that new self. I didn’t know how to exist anymore. I felt isolated and lost. My son was intense and required a lot of me, and I gladly gave all of me to him. But I lost myself in the process.

Out of boredom and a deep need for self-expression, I started photographing him with a little point-and-shoot camera we had. The most fascinating thing happened—I wasn’t just capturing what he looked like but instead who he was. I was able to capture a feeling, his personality, his intensity, and share it. Sharing photographs of him connected me to the world. That connection made me feel less isolated and lost. At the time, social media was in its infancy, so I would rarely share there. I mostly emailed photos of him to family and friends. I then decided I needed a place to share consistently, so I started a typical mommy blog. I received the sense of community and connection that motherhood had seemingly robbed me of. It was life-giving, and I was hooked on this new way to communicate my heart and life with the world through photography.

Moms with cameras, we have a gift. The gift of capturing a feeling, a memory, a sentiment. What we are doing is important. Even if you never photograph anyone but your own children, you matter, you are significant, and you deserve to be here.

The natural progression from being a photographer who captures their own children is to capture other families and their children. It’s what we know. This is when our “mom with a camera” label becomes our superpower. We understand how children behave. We understand the wide range of emotions that are present in every family. Our work comes from a deep place inside of us that yearns to portray our love and adoration for our families. As family photographers, we are capturing a little piece of humanity. We are creating lifelong treasures for ourselves and the humans we capture. We are artists, and we have something worth sharing.

Now, even though I am telling this story from the perspective of a mother who started her journey photographing her own children, this scenario can ring true to many photographers. For many of us, the passion begins with something personal. I know many who start because they enjoy capturing nature or perhaps street photography. Maybe you started this journey as a hobby, and perhaps something was nagging you to pursue more. Here’s the thing—you can reinvent yourself any time you want. It’s a beautiful thing.

So often during this journey, I questioned my purpose. I wondered if I had what it took to be here. I got caught in the comparison game. I saw so many who were further along in their journey, and I thought, “This is never going to happen for me.” I want to share with you exactly what I did to overcome my insecurities about being a mom with a camera.

BTS of a family photography session at home with Elena S Blair.

Figure Out Your “Why”

I put my head down and remembered why I started. I wanted to capture connection and emotion, to make tangible memories. I dug deeply into my “why,” which was to capture a feeling and the intensity of my son’s personality. That is exactly what I aim to do every time I pick up my camera. I want every image to have a deep feeling.

Get Out of the Comparison Game

I stopped getting caught up in the comparison game. I focused heavily on myself and the art and business I was creating. I fine-tuned my style. I figured out exactly who I wanted to be photographing. I stopped worrying about trends and what would make me popular. I intensified my focus on myself by taking extended social media breaks and by taking breaks from visiting the websites of other artists I admired. This helped me own my artistic vision and distinguish myself as an individual.

Own What You Do

Finally, I owned the fact that I was a mom with a camera and I told everyone who would listen that I did, in fact, start my journey photographing my children. This very fact made me an expert in my field. The term that is often used to discount women in the industry became what made me legitimate. Once I turned it around in my mind and decided to make it a positive, that was exactly what it became.

I want every artist out there to know that there is no right way to do this, and no story is more worthy than another. I want every artist to become fiercely attached to their why and know that the world is waiting to see what they have to create.

You belong here. Period.

Elena S Blair capturing a Newborn at home.

We need more artists like us in this industry—artists with a deep personal attachment to what we are creating, sharing heart and soul with the world. Don’t let your story be what makes you want to hide. Let it be what inspires you. I can’t wait to see what you contribute to this industry. We are waiting for you.

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