mommyhood memoirs: “Why Are You Licking the Dog?” | with Erin Mufford


Possible titles for my memoir of motherhood: “Mom, You Need to Comb Those Prickly Things on Your Legs,” “Please Don’t Put Your Feet in Your Tuna Casserole,” and “Why Are You Licking the Dog?” How do I manage to photograph anything with such pressing issues at hand?

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Long before I ever picked up a camera or debated the merits of dog-licking, I had an artistic outlet. I’d take breaks from playing with dolls to make cards or work on scrapbooks. In early adult years, I dabbled in blogging and interior decorating. The summer before our first child was born, my husband gifted me a DSLR. I had not asked for one; he simply thought that I would like it. He was right, as he often is, with the exception of that time he was certain that it was a good idea to transport four full sheets of drywall on the roof of our SUV in the middle of a windstorm.

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When my first child was born, I left my secondary English teaching career of six years to be a full-time mama. People ask me all the time if I miss teaching, but what they don’t remember is that I still AM teaching, except today’s topics are more along the lines of “Volume Control for Beginners” and “Why You Can’t Take Your Pants Off in the Grocery Store.” My children are now two and four, and the brain cells that allowed me to appreciate F. Scott Fitzgerald have been shoved out of the way by brain cells demanding that I memorize every banal word of “Spot Goes Shopping.” But it’s a brain cell sacrifice that I would not trade for anything, not even a lifetime supply of York peppermint patties.

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I found my photography voice and niche near the end of 2016. Previously, I would only take pictures outdoors or indoors in the rooms that got a ton of light, but I had a totally cheesy AHA moment as I photographed this image of my daughter at the sink. Light AND shadows…together? Yes, together. Mind blown. There was probably epic music playing as I gave a slow-motion high five to my camera. I then spent several months bribing my kids into this newly discovered light until it occurred to me that I could just wait for them to wander into said perfect light instead of rotting their teeth with Sour Patch Kids. With that, my cozy little spot in the light-driven documentary family photography world began.

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Living in Western New York means that for about six months of the year my options are 1) stay inside or 2) go outside and wonder why I live here. This living arrangement is one of the reasons I have been driven to understand indoor light, because even when the sun is hiding and the outdoor light is terribly flat and dull, lovely moody photos can be taken indoors. I also strive to maintain sufficiently pasty legs to go with my propensity to avoid shaving, so staying indoors for a good portion of the year suits me just fine. The moodiness, the shadows, the rich contrast of light and dark is what draws me back to indoor photography again and again.

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Favorite hobbies besides photography: consuming way too much homemade popcorn, organizing home improvement projects for my husband, and removing the clean laundry from the couch so that we can watch ‘Elementary.’ Oh, and also brainstorming titles for my memoir.

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xoxo, Erin @erin.mufford