But the effect of her being on those around her was incalculably diffusive: for the growing good of the world is partly dependent on unhistoric acts; and that things are not so ill with you and me as they might have been, is half owing to the number who lived faithfully a hidden life, and rest in unvisited tombs.
George Eliot, Middlemarch
Raw and overwhelmed, Amanda Voelker stood at the kitchen sink doing dishes while her two young children vied for her attention. Instead of abandoning the dishes or ignoring her children or screaming uncle or crumbling inside, Amanda grabbed her tripod and camera and set out to document what her life as a mother really looked like.
Amanda had long admired Heather Robinson’s candid portraits of motherhood unplugged. The two photographers have a lasting and mutually inspirational relationship. After Amanda captured that vulnerable mothering moment, Heather suggested they collaborate for the sake of their own true family story and for all the mothers out there whose reality of motherhood wasn’t exactly what unfolded in a given day.
That moment was six months ago and was the birth of the joint project, The Effect of Her Being, by Amanda and Heather.
The title is derived from a Middlemarch passage in which Eliot pays homage to those that daily perform “unhistoric acts” like many of us mothers who dress, feed, wipe, sweep, soothe, brush, bathe, play, encourage, cuddle and comfort all before getting in our first sip of coffee. This quote begins each new weekly pairing of images that Voelker and Robinson present from the intimate corners of their separate yet similar worlds.
“I can look at these moments from a somewhat objective point of view and pause and ponder them. It allows me to see the beauty in my life, even when I am emotionally, mentally and physically exhausted. It helps me to remember that it is okay to just be and not compete with an ideal that is unreachable. I see that even in these moments where my mind may be somewhere else, my children know they are loved.”
~ Amanda Voelker
“Each time, I go to shoot for this project, I feel less and less afraid of exposing my true self. I remind myself that my children are going to absolutely love having photographs of themselves taken with their mother. Their eyes delight in seeing me. My flaws are invisible to them. . . This motherhood journey has often been an incredibly arduous and lonely one for me. Photography is my solace. Although I shoot for myself and also my children, I always feel so honored when others reach out to me and express how much my photographs and my words have helped them.”
Week by Week, frame by frame, Amanda and Heather shine light on the easily invisible gestures of mothering. Their “hidden life” resonates instantly and leaves behind a quiet celebration honoring and validating motherhood in all its ordinary glory.
Follow Amanda and Heather as they continue to share their everything: