Melanie Grace is a motherhood photographer who was first drawn to photography through her own desire to capture the ‘fleeting moments’ of her family life.
Her natural, raw and intimate photos lovingly tell the unique stories of her clients and their children as well as celebrating the ‘chaos, Calpol and caffeine’ that so often accompanies parenthood.
Melanie has also recently begun documenting ‘all parts of motherhood’ through her project ‘100 Days of Motherhood’. The project sees Melanie, and her clients, discuss what motherhood means to them. They touch on topics such as; regaining your identity after becoming a mother and why it’s sometimes necessary to throw the rules of parenting out of the window.
We spoke to Melanie Grace, who lives in Cornwall, about what documenting motherhood means to her.
Could you describe your photography style in 3 words?
Simple, natural, real.
What drew you to motherhood as a subject?
I started off specializing in newborn photography and so many of the mothers who brought their babies to be photographed shied away from getting in front of the camera themselves. So, I had to really convince them because, for me, the relationship between mother and baby is so powerful.
It's such a massive change for a woman to become a mother and I really believe we should all forget our hang-ups and have more photographs with our babies. Photographs are our legacy for our children. I often hear women saying that they wished they had more photos with their own mums so that’s my mission.
What drew you to photography as a medium to capture motherhood?
It’s the old cliche of becoming a mother and having that need to document my babies as they grow. They really do grow and change so fast. You hear it so often but you will never be prepared for what that really feels like.
It's such a massive change for a woman to become a mother
I love, love, love photographing babies and children. But, it’s that relationship between a mother and baby that makes my heart sing. I really just want to give mamas memories of motherhood that they can keep forever.
What do you hope to capture in your photographs?
Real moments, real love and the best bits of motherhood. The moments we wish would last a little longer.
How do you build a relationship with your clients?
I have three children myself so I find I can easily relate to what my mama clients are experiencing right now. I’m also super laid back. A typical session with a client is more like grabbing a coffee with a friend and taking some photos.
You prefer to take natural unposed shots of your subjects why is this?
Natural photographs are about connection, emotion, honesty, and love. When I started in the newborn photography world six years ago the style was very posed. I just hated posing parents into awkward positions. I found it stressful and time-consuming and it’s just not real.
It’s more like grabbing a coffee with a friend and taking some photos.
A posed family portrait, for me, doesn’t show me enough, it doesn’t tell your story. Being positioned, told where to look and when to smile can create a beautiful family photo. But, it’s just a photo of how you looked: it doesn’t hold any memories. Over time I evolved into what felt right for me. Getting more and more natural to totally unposed. Real moments are what I love.
Are there any challenges you face while working?
As a location photographer I never really know what I’m getting into until I turn up. Lighting can be a challenge but it’s a fun challenge and it keeps me on my toes.
What does motherhood mean to you?
Motherhood is everything to me; it’s who I am. I had my eldest daughter when I was 19 before I really knew myself. Those first few months, I didn't really know who I was or who I was meant to be. I was so worried about being judged by the older mums who seemingly had it all together because I didn't feel like I was holding it together at all.
Real moments are what I love.
It wasn’t until much later on in motherhood that I realized I was suffering from postnatal depression, anxiety, and mild agoraphobia. You see, this was before it was okay to talk about mental health. But, thankfully, women are opening up more about the struggles, especially over on Instagram. And I’m learning not to be ashamed to talk about my own battles.
I don’t just want to show beautiful images of mothers, I want to share their stories too
By 20 I was married and moved to Buckinghamshire. Then, a year later we had our second child. Photography helped me find something for myself. Whilst I was at home with my two children I started to build my business by photographing friends and their babies. It pushed me to be more confident in myself and believe that I could build the life I really wanted for myself and my family.
Thankfully, women are opening up more about the struggles, especially over on Instagram.
Now I’m a mother of three and a business owner living in Cornwall. Life is full, and busy but amazing at the same time. My youngest will be turning four this year and starting school in September; it’s a new phase for us both. I’m no longer a mother of babies. It’s kinda sad to close that chapter but I’m looking forward to embracing life as a mother of school-aged children and making the most of having my “baby” at home for a few more months.
A posed family portrait, for me, doesn’t show me enough, it doesn’t tell your story.
I love my life. I'm able to balance motherhood and business; spend my days drinking tea and chatting with amazing mothers and documenting their motherhood story for them and their children.
Do your own experiences of motherhood inform your work?
Motherhood is full of highs and lows. It’s important to me to acknowledge that in my business. It's not always what we think it’s going to be and honesty is so important. I’m so grateful for the experiences I’ve been through myself because it enables me to relate to my clients and listen to their experiences with no judgments.
I’m also well aware that these moments don’t last forever. I’ve experienced it with my own children. You’ll catch yourself staring at them wondering how on earth they got so big. You wish you could go back to the time that they fall asleep on your chest or experience those first smiles again but you can’t. You don’t know you’ll miss these moments until they’re gone.
Can you tell me about ‘100 Days of Motherhood’
100 days of motherhood is a project I started to push myself creatively and dig deeper into the subject of motherhood. It’s a chance to create conversations and get real about motherhood’s highs and lows. Sometimes, they are my own personal views and experiences and sometimes they are words from other mothers I’ve met.
What do you think women gain from sharing their stories of motherhood? What do you think other people, mothers or not, gain from reading them?
I hope that women can gain more information about motherhood; the stuff no one tells you about. I want mothers who may be struggling in some way to realize that someone else has been through the same thing. I don’t just want to show beautiful images of mothers. I want to share their stories too so they can inspire more mothers to get in front of the camera because none of us are perfect. We have all been through stuff or are battling something right now.
And finally, what ‘season of your life are you in now and how to do the previous ‘seasons’ of your life inform this current ‘season’?
I’ve recently relocated to Cornwall after 8 years in Buckinghamshire. So my life currently is all about adjusting and building a new life and new friendships. As much as that's challenging I also believe that it will all be fine and things just take time. I’m not far off 30 and I finally feel comfortable with myself. I know who I am and I know what I’m about. It’s about finding the right kind of people who you can be yourself with. Find your tribe.
Melanie Grace is a motherhood photographer
All images courtesy of Melanie Grace