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SEEN - A Photography Exhibition Shows Work by Local Mothers

Credits: photograph by Ananda Lima
Credits: photograph by Miki Shoenfeld
Credits: Photograph by Alyson Levy

MAPLEWOOD, NJ - SEEN , a photography exhibition featuring the work of five local Essex County mothers will be shown in Maplewood on April 19 at 53 Maplewood Avenue. The photographs taken during the Winter and early Spring months of 2014, show the unique perspectives of each artist as mothers and as photographers. The exhibition features the projects four of the artists submitted for their photography course and portraits the instructor took of each student.

Although Ananda Lima has taught photography classes before, this class was a first for her. It was attended not only by her students, Gail Fornell, Alyson Levy, Miki Schoenfeld and Lisa Smith, but also their children,­ seven energetic toddlers and preschoolers.

“I have been wanting to do something like this since my two year old was born... a ‘mommy and me’ class that was actually for the parent," said Lima.  "So everyone brought their kids, who would play, giggle, scream, and fight while we had our class. Someone always had to step out. It was chaos a lot of the time, maybe most of the time, but it really worked. I am really happy with the results”

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Ananda is referring to both how the students were able to learn amongst the constant distractions and the work they were able to produce when they went home: “I am very happy with the quality of the work. All of them were able to show their own visual style. I also love how the work the students did for the project turned out so varied, even though they had exactly the same input. Some projects showed more visible links to their children and motherhood, a big part of their lives and always present in this particular class. Others showed a part of their inner world and how they see things, that I was not necessarily familiar with before seeing their photographs.”

Gail Fornell’s project was an example of a subject which was a pleasant surprise for Ananda. Gail’s photographs contrast chocolate from America and from Belgium, where she lived for 10 years: “Chocolate, was the last thing I thought I would miss from Belgium. I moved in the middle of summer and arrived into such a welcoming town, Maplewood, that chocolate was the last thing on my mind. But in the winter months with the bitter cold, I started missing my nightly bonbon a lot. With the winter on my door step, literally, I could not readily drive to Whole Foods for chocolate so my leftover Halloween’s chocolate stack had to do. It was a big move, my chocolate habits changed drastically. I don’t think I developed a preference, Belgian chocolate has its time and space and I can say the same for American chocolate, but there is something glamorous about Belgian chocolate, a desire that is not substituted by any other type of chocolate, and something I really miss from Belgium.“

Ananda was also pleased to see how Alyson Levy and Lisa Smith’s work, who are both pregnant with their second child and whose projects include photographs of their children, turned out so different. Alyson’s work involve beautiful, very carefully composed, wide angle portraits of her daughter, Nola: “As a stay at home mom, not only is Nola a constantly available subject, but she is a very expressive two year old who runs the range of emotions from angry, to frustrated, to gleeful and back to distraught in a matter of seconds.” While Alyson includes a lot of the environment, Lisa’s tend to be shot much closer, eliminating some of the environment and giving you the feeling that you we witnessing a private moment through a door that is only half opened. It gives you a very intimate feel of the her world.

The uniqueness of each photographer’s perspective is further shown in Miki’s project. While she is also a full time mother of two children, and her photographs for the project were taken while on vacation with her children, her photographs are not of her children. “Miki’s photographs are very clean and graphic and have a strong signature. Through out the class, she would bring photographs of objects she saw around the house, even the mess that her kids were making, and they would always have this consistent minimalistic, graphic look. I loved them. When she applied that to the wider world during her vacation, the results were beautiful. I love her style. I also love it how her work, together with the other projects, the show shows that, while our children is the center of our world, there are so many sides of what we see, as mothers and as people”

Ananda will also be exhibiting portraits she took of the students within the same few months when they were working on their projects: “These portraits have a couple of layers. The first one is there because I wanted to explore their developing relationship with photography, so I juxtapose a photograph of I previously took of them next to their real selves in each of the photographs. Of course, by the time you see the final photograph, the real person is no longer there and both are photographs. Another layer has to do with a theme that I have been exploring in other projects, which is the relationship between depersonalized photographs of people (the kind you see in fashion models and celebrities), portraiture and our perception of a real person. I think this will work especially well in our exhibition because all the real people photographed will also be there, which is a perfect way to see this work.... It is interesting for me that every time I have worked with this latter theme so far, the outer layer involved photographs of mothers, even though these themes at first seem to be independent.”

The exhibition and reception will be held on April 19th at 5pm at 53 Maplewood Avenue, Maplewood, NJ. All artists will be present to answer questions about their experience and their work. Refreshments will be served. Entry is free.

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