Mini Task 7: A year in pictures

There’s a lot that can be said for documenting, capturing and reflecting on life events through images. 

An image that didn’t feel significant at the time of being taken can signify much more than its original purpose, years down the line. Those loved ones we lose, oh how we wish we had more images of them so we can drink them in and absorb their memory after they’ve gone. 

Apps like ‘time hop’ (as we’re entering a decade of social media) have really started to come into their own recently. Those memories, the nostalgia, all wrapped up in grainy photographs of the younger versions of ourselves and our loved ones. 

One purpose of ’The Mothers’ project is to encourage mothers to document their lives, and that doesn’t just mean the lives of those around us. Make sure you are in the images too. Give the camera to someone else, and say, ‘can you take a photograph of me?’ 

It also means to document and make note of the tough times as well as the good times. Looking back and reflecting on how far you’ve come, on the changes you’ve made, and how you got through those difficult times can be really helpful in processing emotions. 

Today’s task is to look through your camera roll for the last year. Can you select the images you’ve taken that capture how you’ve felt since the pandemic has been in your life? 

Mothers life in Lockdown – ‘Zine’ submissions

According to Bo-Jo we’re just over two months away from having all social restrictions lifted, and we’re tentatively looking forward to a life of ‘normality’ (whatever that really means). By the time the 21st June arrives we’ll have been living in constraints for just under a year and a half. 

Some mothers have given birth in this time and their babies, now toddling around, have only known a world of masked faces and social-distancing. Some of us have lost loved ones. Some of us have had lives flipped completely upside-down, and some of us have found peace in the forced isolation. This huge life event will stay with us all for the rest of our lives for many different reasons.

Since November I’ve been working with a group of mothers all over the UK, via zoom, whatsapp and also through Instagram, and together we’ve been using photographs, words and other mixed-media to create a document of our experiences of motherhood during this time. The act of documenting and discussing has helped us to try and make sense of our experiences.    

Along the way the group of women have tackled created mini-tasks, and collected images and words. As we edge closer to our final self-initiated’ project, our concluding act will be to produce a ‘zine’ of the work which will act as an archive of this time. Any mother can contribute to this zine, and anything can be submitted. As long as it’s something that reflects on #motherslifeinlockdown. 

Submissions to the zine can be any of the work from the mini-tasks so far, or it can be a written piece illustrated with images from the last year, or it can be new images created specifically for the magazine, it can be old images and written reflections/responses, or it can be a collection of images or just one image. 

Or, if you’d like a prompt, you can answer these questions from and submit an image or images to accompany: 

What were your initial thoughts about how lockdown would affect you (back in March last year)?

What was the reality of the first lockdown for you?

Have things changed over time for you as the restrictions have been eased and toughened? 

Have there been easy/positive aspects of lockdown?

Have there been difficult/negative aspects of lockdown? 

(If relevant) Has your work been affected? 

What has helped you get through lockdown? 

Have you learnt anything, during lockdown, that you will want carry forward as it is eased? Are there things that you might even miss?

This zine will act as a document for the future, and a record of what mothers experienced during this time. 

The deadline for submissions is May 31st 2021. All images should be full size and high resolution. Please send submissions or questions to 

Mini-task 8: Self-initiated brief

The #motherslifeinlockdown participatory project is coming to an end in the next couple of months and the last project will be a little more open and explorative than the previous mini-tasks. 

Bearing in mind all of the previous tasks, and all of the skills learned, the next task is to set yourself a brief. 

Will it be related to ‘celebrate the mundane’, collecting patterns, an exploration of #typology, using window light, a collection of self-portraits, re-using old pictures, re-visiting the journey task, a day in the life

It can literally be ANYTHING that explores your experiences of motherhood in lockdown in a purposeful way. Set yourself some rules for your task.

Will you focus on the same place at the same time of day, every day for a week? (See Paul Graham’s ‘Mother’ series)

Will you create a typology of items that your children discard randomly around the house? (See Luke Stevenson’s work)

Will you photograph your children unmade beds everyday? (See Alejandra Regalado)  

Will you photograph the dinner table after every meal for a week? (See Alejandro Cartagena)

Will you document your relationships with your loved ones in a candid and unposed way? (See Cheryle St Onge)

Will you document the beautiful, ordinary moments of everyday motherhood? (See Dawn Yow)

Will you photograph spaces that display signs of human activity? (See Palmer Davis – Here and Now)

Will you construct self-portraits that tell a story? (See Annie Wang  Mother as a creator, and Jocelyn Allen —One is not like the other)

Will you reference old images and introduce illustration or embroidery, or collage? (See Helen Sargeant)

Have fun with your brief, but don’t set anything too open. Set rules and parameters for yourself and make sure it reflects part of your life that is easily accessible.   

Mini-task 6: Celebrate the mundane

The kids are back to school (a little bit longer to wait if you’re not in England), but life won’t be returning to normal for a while yet. Life will continue to revolve around mundane daily tasks for the time being. 

Use the next task to document the drudgery of everyday life, and those little details that your little loves leave behind. 

You can approach this in whatever way you would like. For example, you could find beauty in ‘the everyday’, or create a visual diary of gratitude; documenting beautiful light streaming through grubby fingerprints on the windows, or children’s muddy knees from playing outside.

Subversively, if things are feeling particularly tough at the moment you could collect a visual diary of indignation; document the things that wind you up, collect images of emptied out pocket-contents on the dining table, or that pile of shoes and coats that don’t quite make it to the place where they actually live, or you could document the daily piles of washing up by the sink.

It would be wonderful to see the different ways that the task is interpreted. Don’t forget to tag your posts #motherslifeinlockdown if sharing on social media. 

For inspiration look at artist Dawn Yow (@ohhellodawn on Instagram)

Jordi Huisman

Palmer Davis ‘Here and now”  

Martin Parr

Doug Dubois

Elinor Carucci

William Eggleston

Rinko Kawauchi

3, 4, 5 Mini-mindful-tasks

  1. ‘Colour / Texture’

Take twenty mins to explore your surroundings focussing on texture and colour and photographing what you find. You can look for one colour, or a rainbow of colours. Do it at home or out of the house. There are no rules. When you’ve collected around 15 images create a collage of your favourites (the layout app is good for this).

2. Photo Bingo

The second of the mindfulness tasks can be a peaceful exercise in noticing the things around you, or it can be flipped on its head and turned into a competitive game with the family (you can choose which mood you’re in on that day). 

It can be done at home or out of the house, and involves choosing one type of thing to spot and shoot. I’ve gone for ‘faces’ around my house. If you live with an art-hoarder like me this is made slightly easier. If you live in a minimal, zen haven with bare walls this may be slightly trickier.

If you enjoy that, try it with a different type of thing: spot different leaves on the park (or flowers as Spring and Summer roll on), or spot the local cats on a walk around the block, spot the piles of mess around the house, find shells on a beach (when we’re allowed to venture away from home), snap beautiful front doors, photograph red items around the house. 

There’s something very satisfying about creating a collection linked by a theme, so much so that it has a name, Typology: a classification according to general type, especially in archaeology, psychology, or the social sciences. 

After you tried this short task, have a think, is there a way you could carry this further? Is there a collection that you’d like to photograph that might take little bit more time to gather? 

The Typologist blog is great for inspiration too.

3. Window Light Portraits

You’ll need a willing volunteer to be your model in this task (or you could even have a go at using window light to create a self-portrait). 

It may also be helpful to get hold of a white or reflective item to help bounce light, and/or also a large dark item to absorb the light. Blankets and sheets are good, or mirrors, whiteboards/blackboards. Be creative with the items you have at home. If you have a room a dark walls see what effect you get when takng portraits near the window. 

First place your model by a window with soft, non-direct light. Before you even consider taking any photos observe how light falls on your subject. 

Slowly walk your model along the window ledge. Rotate them on the spot and see where the light hits them. Play with curtains or blinds to see what effect this has on the light. Don’t take any photos yet—this is an exercise in observation. 

Still, don’t take any photos.

Hold up your white/reflective surface behind and near your model and observe what happens to the light as it hits them. See how the light bounces off the light/reflective surface and ‘fills’ in the shadows’. Surrounding your model with light surfaces will create a soft, bright image.

Still, don’t take any photos.

Then try holding up your dark item near your model/subject. See if there is any change to the light that is hitting them. Dark items absorb light, and so surrounding your subject with dark items/walls will increase the drama and contrast in the image.

Using your camera, now attempt to capture what the naked eye can see. 

Keep taking photos and making adjustments; keep moving and rotating your model, and move the blinds/curtains and try to create different effects with the light and shadow.

*The examples below are self-portraits take on a phone camera, so it can be done on a phone camera, but bear in mind that the the phone camera’s job is to automatically take a correctly exposed image. It will try and compensate for the shadows and will try to brighten up the image. Don’t be worried about this. Have a go at manually bringing down the exposure on your phone camera—on iPhones you touch the screen and drag your finger up and down. These images will be improved vastly by cropping and editing after you’ve taken them so don’t lose heart if the lighting effect isn’t immediately obvious. 

Take a selection of your favourite images and edit them individually in your phone. 

First crop/rotate them so that you’re happy with them, then concentrate specifically on ‘brilliance, ‘highlights’, ‘shadows’, ‘contrast’ and ‘exposure’. See what happens when you play with these controls.

If you have a proper camera you’ll be able to get some excellent results with this lighting technique. 

Mini-Task 2: Journey

Using the cameras that you have at home (or whatever method of mark-making you choose) document a journey.

The theme of ‘Journeys’ can be interpreted in many ways, and in a lockdown where travel is limited bear this in mind.

Do you want to document a journey, literally? A walk to the park, a drive to the shops or dash around a supermarket? Or something smaller like the journey from your bed to the bathroom in the morning. A journey can be anything that has a start, then some progression or motion, and finally an end point. Think, how could this be interpreted within our own mini Covid-restricted universes?

Have a look at street photographers, and documentary photographers whose work focuses in on those moments of movement and action when documenting ‘the everyday’.

Here are some examples of artists to look at:

Laura Reid
Gulnara Samoilova
Megan Kwasniak
Efrat Sela
Cat Byrnes
Emily Garthwaite
Peter Fraser

Beyond Photography there are many ways to interepret the concept of a journey, and here (below), Sandra Meech uses mixed media to represent ‘a walk over thick ice of Baker Lake’. Meech uses photography, drawing, painting, collage and stitching to embroider landscapes and nature and journeys:

Sandra Meech, Off the wall.

Guy Debord, below, was part of the group, The Situationists, who invented the term, ‘Psychogeography‘, an inventive method of exploring cities which encouraged pedestrians to move away from their usual, predictable trajectory. The idea is that these maps help people to enjoy the environment around them in new, playful and immersive ways.

Guy Debord – The Naked City, 1957
Larissa Fassler focusses on non-places to form “a succession of autonomous worlds” 

There is also the possibility of showing a journey in a metaphorical way. You could focus on the progression of time in the past year during the pandemic, the growth or your children and the things you’ve learned in the process. You could represent your own personal journey, or the journey of your family. You can also refer back to, or use old photos or footage in this task if you’d like to.

Bill Voila, Nantes Triptich, 1992 WARNING: This video includes footage of a woman in childbirth and a woman in her last moments before dying

Tracey Emin – Exploration of the Soul

Finally, you could look at the project in a conceptual way. The exploration of the theme ‘journey’ could be enough. Could you create a piece of work where the process was the actual art work itself.

Hamish Fulton
Richard Long, A line made by walking, 1967
Andy Goldsworthy

Send any works in progress or finished pieces which you’d like to share to or tag your pictures with #motherslifeinlockdown on Instagram.

Mini-Task 1: Self Portrait

Using the cameras that you have at home (or whatever method of mark-making you choose) create a self-portrait. Phone cameras will be fine.

This task is designed to pull you out of your comfort zone so experiment. If you don’t like the images you take, indentify the issues, make changes and try something different. Making mistakes is part of the creative process. Look for the nice light available to you within your homes and see how the light affects the mood of the image. Have a go at adjusting exposure, contrast, colour on your camera. Try different angles, prop your camera (blue tack can be helpful here) and make sure you use your longest timer and also use the better lens on your camera to get good quality images which should be the one on the back. Use the selfie screen to frame the image.

I’d recommend you watch this great video by Trevor Wentt which explores how you can take portraits of yourself using what you already have available to you:

Here are the links to some great mother photographers who use self-portraiture in their work:

Good luck! When you’ve got something you’re happy with we’d love to see your work, email or tag your posts on Instagram with #motherslifeinlockdown