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Mother's Day Photo Contest
View the Winners of the Mother’s Day Photo Contest on Flickr!

No one word describes the remarkable things that mothers do. But where language fails us, a single, well-composed photograph speaks volumes.

In celebration of mothers all over the world, we hosted a Mother’s Day Photo Contest on Flickr! We are now proud to feature the work of the ten talented contest winners-- photographers from around the world who have evocatively captured motherhood. In appreciation of their work, we’re sending them each a free copy of the Imagining Ourselves book and featuring their image for the world to admire!

See the lucky winners here—add your comments and thoughts on their photographs.

You can even post your favorite “mom photos” as added stories-- and help us celebrate mothers around the world!

After all, for all the things that mothers do, shouldn’t every day be Mother’s Day?

Anshuman Rane
As a teenager, on the very rare occasions that I really annoyed my mother she'd tell me: "Wait until you have children and then you'll know what I'm going through."

I used to reply that I'd probably never know. For varying reasons. One being that I'd never be a mother.

As I've grown older however, I've been allowed to imagine what motherhood might be like, by vicariously taking part as family and friends planned for and became parents. It's a tumultuous process, a roller coaster ride of emotions, quite a few of which, I feel, have been captured in this photo exhibit.

Stephanie Beaty's beautiful image of her great-grandmother holding her son reminds me of my own grandmother, bringing back many happy childhood memories. In contrast, the stark image of a mother holding her sleeping child, by Bhavna Bahri, speaks to me of the strength that motherhood demands, faced with despair and adversity.

There were 332 submissions to the competition and rather than tell you what I felt about all of them I'd love to hear what you think. About your favourites, or your least favourites. What emotions, thoughts, sensations did the images arouse in you?
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Lisa Nessan
United States
Posted on Thursday, July 05, 2007 3:18 PM
Thanks Anshuman for engaging us in some of these questions. I too hope that others will share stories.

As a social documentary photographer, I prefer to build a relationship between myself and the subject, and participant observer is one of the roles that works best in that effort as it builds trust and comfort. I tend to shy away from considering my work photojournalism because I feel that context alters that relationship. That being said, I do use my work as a form of advocacy and activism, which could be considered voyeurism, although in the case of the communities I have photographed in Palestine, I believe it is my responsibility.

In this particular photo the children (Shahed, Jumana, Safana, and Diana) were all awaiting their turn to be bathed by their mother, Dalal one afternoon, after washing dishes (after the girls, the clothes were washed). These girls were always playing, flirting, imitating, dancing, singing... finding ways to entertain themselves, and I was often involved in the fun.

I am fortunate to have picked up enough Arabic to communicate well, despite the local dialects and accents. Without a doubt my Arabic was helpful, although, given the context of my presence there, trust and comfort was almost immediate. As I mentioned in the "story", the community has faced violence and threats from the neighboring Israeli settlers. International presence was requested for protective accompaniment, so in general, volunteers were treated with unbelievable hospitality, acceptance and warmth.

Other context of the photo:
Palestinians Struggle to Hold on to Land, Watering Holes
Berkeley Daily Planet

The Israeli army returns to continue the destruction in South Hebron
Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions
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Anshuman Rane
Posted on Thursday, July 05, 2007 5:08 AM
There are some really interesting threads developing here. I'm hoping that we will be able to get some more of the photographers to join the discussion to tell us the stories behind their images.

As an anthropologist though I'm wondering how the photographer's work. Do you ask for permission, as a participant observer do you join in the daily life of the subject, is part of it voyeurism and is that necessarily a bad thing.

This thought was prompted in part by Lisa's story of her work in Qawawis. Can you tell us a little more about the circumstances around this particular photo and the children. Were they comfortable with you there? How long did it take them to get comfortable with you? did it help that you spoke Arabic?
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Frances Pomperada
United States
Posted on Monday, July 02, 2007 3:06 PM
I appreciate the complexities and stories behind each of these photos. Each instantaneous photograph is distinct in its own way but also speaks to evoke a language that is universal to women from all walks of life.

I love the contrast in texture of Stephanie Beaty's "In Bloom and Five Generations." "Natives of Pinatubo" by Parc Cruz speaks personally to me and serves as a reminder of the sacrifices that my mother made for my family and me.
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Lisa Nessan
United States
Posted on Monday, July 02, 2007 9:41 AM
Apologies: I don't know what just happened there.

First of all, about this photo and motherhood. I have learned an immense amount about mothering from spending time with women in Palestine. With limited resources, external stresses and pressures, they continue to mother with beauty, patience, and ease.

Palestinians live an isolated existence under occupation, especially since the election of Hamas government and the economic boycott imposed against them. Most Palestinians see people from outside, even other Palestinians from the big cities, as a point of access. In most places I traveled, people asked for me to take photos and asked that I share them and tell the stories of their situation.

I traveled to Qawawis from Ramallah every 3-4 weeks and stayed there for about 4-5 days each visit as part of a rotation of volunteers who were present in the community as protective accompaniment. While most volunteers stay between 2 weeks and 2 months, I was able to build a strong connection and trust with the families in the community and they were comfortable with me and my camera.

I have a number of photos from Qawawis, cooking, washing dishes, laundry, getting water from the well, praying, building a shelter for the animals, grazing them, milking them, harvesting wheat...

The house in the photo has really nicely texture on one of the walls, sometimes reflective cement floors and amazing light that shines brightly through the door, especially the early morning light. I was almost always inspired by it...
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Luz Sanchez
Posted on Saturday, June 30, 2007 11:03 AM
I love Mother of Me. How crazy how much the two look alike. Good job, Maria. Who is portrayed in that photograph? How did you capture it?

Lisa, can you tell us more about how you captured that image? Were you just hanging around the house and thought it was a good time to take a picture? Were you taking multiple pictures? Did you know the family well?
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Anshuman Rane
Posted on Friday, June 29, 2007 11:12 AM
Not being a particularly 'visual' person, not thinking in images, what Kathryn and Miranda are saying is really interesting to me. Especially in how images are 'seen' and then the stories that then erupt from that.

It would be great to see what others feel, or think, what stories they form around the picture they like or identify with.

I was that this discussion would promotee more of an insight into motherhood and its different experiences that these images might make you identify with, as a parent, spouse or child.

What do you think...
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Paula Goldman, Director of Imagining Ourselves
United States
Posted on Thursday, June 28, 2007 3:23 PM
For those of you who want to see all the 300 plus photographs entered in the competition-- see them here:

Really a great pool, and thanks to our international advisory committee ( for their hard work in selecting!
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Posted on Thursday, June 28, 2007 10:31 AM
In each of these photos an elipses lingers. There is a story to be told about a new mother, a grandmother, a pregnant mother. I’m inspired by the way a well composed photograph has the ability to invent a language of its own and compel me to imagine a greater story.

In these photos I want to know what happened before. I want to see what happened after the shot was taken. Maria Inês Alves de Almeida's portrait “Mother of me” makes me feel nostalgia for my own mother even though she’s only a twenty minute drive away.

I want to know this mother and her son. From this single shot, I feel like I can begin to tell their history. I can imagine what will come.
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Miranda Mimi Kuo-Deemer
Posted on Wednesday, June 27, 2007 10:48 PM
The winners of the competition show images displaying a beautiful diversity of roles, relationships and emotions of motherhood. In my own work as a photographer, I have focused on documenting women's lives where the role of motherhood has appears as subtext and background, but never as the primary focus.

When viewing these photographs and judging the competition, I felt deeply moved by the complexity in which the subject of motherhood was explored. I especially liked Lisa Nessan's image of a mother bathing a child while other children play in the foreground. To me, there is so much happening in one frame – there are a number of stories told through one release of the shutter. There is dynamic movement as well as stillness in the frame, and the play of shadow and light invites a sense of knowing and not knowing what to expect and feel. I imagine the knowing and not knowing component is probably much like motherhood.

I also liked Stephanie Beaty's images, "In Bloom" and "Five Generations." Stephanie's photographs captured so much texture, wisdom and sense of strength through her compositions and contrasts. These characteristics -- especially of wisdom and strength –-are what I have seen in many mothers, my own included. The feeling of tenderness as well as of protection, youth and the coming of life, as well as inevitability of age and passing evoked very powerful feelings for me.

All the images are good food for thought, especially for myself at this stage in life. If all goes as planned, next year I'm hoping to have a baby of my own, and will probably look back to these images as reminders and inspirations for my own experience in motherhood!
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Featured Stories
Leigh Taylor, United States
"Bathing Baby Shahed : Qawawis, Palestine"
Lisa Nessan, United States
"Natives of Pinatubo"
Parc Cruz, Philippines, the
Zilia Korpas, Australia
"Where Do We Go, Sweet Child O' Mine"
Bhavna Bahri, India
"Girls Being Girls"
Emily Elmore, United States
"Mother of Me"
Maria Inês Alves de Almeida, Portugal
"Happy Birthday Sandra"
Gregory John Smith, Brazil
"In Bloom and Five Generations"
Stephanie Beaty , United States
Tarnya Hall, Australia
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