We were thrilled to collaborate with Lauren in 2018 on a special portrait series showcasing and celebrating mums. We chatted with Lauren about her experiences in motherhood behind and in front of the lens.
Tell us a little about yourself, your work and your experience/s with motherhood.
I'm Lauren. I'm a creative director in advertising and on the side I photograph women being their real selves in their real clothes, in their real environments with no photoshop. It’s always a collaborative and creative experience, and every shoot ends up being as varied as the women I shoot. The best part is not even the photographs themselves, rather it's sharing them with the women - when they see themselves as I see them, as real and beautiful and imperfectly perfect as they are. This is such a great reminder for all women in any work place to simply be themselves.
I've currently partnered up with Kent to explore motherhood through the lens of how I shoot. This means mothers with adult children, new moms, breastfeeding moms and mamas-to-be.
What does motherhood mean to you?
Is it fair to say I don't know yet? I'm pregnant now, and I'm about to embark on a new chapter of my own life. It's my first child, which means I'm also in a way giving birth to myself as a mother. The entire pregnancy has been a journey of becoming; I imagine motherhood to be infinitely more than that. I'm only beginning to understand what it means to have my body and my life belong to someone else, and to like it. I'm trying to leave space for what motherhood will mean, and to take it as it comes.
Is there anything you would like to see change about how motherhood is currently represented?
It's such a complex issue. Like many other archetypes, it brings with is stereotypes that come from truth but are far too one dimensional, while simultaneously contradicting themselves. The archetypes are plenty: soccer mom, working mom, self-sacrificing mom, the over-protective mom. I'm interested in a representation of motherhood that becomes dimensional - imperfect, powerful, raw, as complex as mothers themselves are, and as dynamic as women are, because as much as I am looking forward to the "birth" of my motherhood, I am also looking forward to finding myself in there as well, the me I've always known.
Can you talk a little bit about the ways you’ve advocated for change in your work?
When I was working at TBWA\Media Arts Lab, I got very involved in supporting women in leadership. I was part of a program called 20\20, aimed at increasing female leadership across the TBWA network. We made a film, conducted an agency-wide survey and started to implement programs across the network to reach our goal. See the work here: http://www.laurencarlylesmith.com/#/tbwa-take-the-lead/
I've since left that company to work at 72 and Sunny, where they are leading the industry on promoting women and women's issues. Just recently, they hired a head of production who is pregnant, knowing she will take their generous six month maternity leave. Read her blog about it here: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/i-just-started-72andsunny-los-angeles-director-im-24-kate/
I also was part of a program on female leadership at one of the biggest advertising festivals of the year, Cannes, called See It Be it, where I learned about how to lead both myself and others.
What challenges and opportunities has the concept of motherhood created for you - personally? Professionally?
I remember earlier in my career, working late nights and weekends, and thinking that I could never do this with a family at home. I watched men I work with as their wives left their jobs to be full-time caregivers continue to work late nights and weekends, and again worried that the industry would leave me behind if I couldn't keep up. I still wonder how I'm going to do it when I return from maternity leave. I do, now, however have a different sense of my own agency in it. Part of the work of change is changing myself first, working smarter, balancing better, setting boundaries while also setting an example. We'll see how I do...
selection of photos from our motherhood series