"Eye Mama" was created by BAFTA (British Academy Film Award) -nominated filmmaker and photographer Karni Arieli. The iconic book of photographs is a portfolio of the mother's narrative and the mother's eye."Mama" is a term of endearment and a word of connection for the artist. It stands for all who see themselves as mothers of children, the stories of miscarriage and abortion, adoption and ivf. Humanity is in the foreground. With her Instagram channel "Eye Mama Project", Karni Arieli reached thousands of people in just a few weeks. She created a global photo platform that invites other mothers to show and share their pictures and experiences about motherhood, home and their own family life during times of pandemic and war. With her idea, Arieli was featured by Vogue, National Geographic and Stern. In the meantime, over 27,000 images have reached the "Eye Mama Project".
Here, the exceptional artist summarises her most important thoughts on the process of creating her successful project and lets us dive deeper into her book and the reality of young mothers' lives:
The Eye Mama Project was the brainchild of pandemic 2020.
I was at home as an artist with my kids, like many others in the UK . So I was photographing my kids making art as a form of connection, comfort therapy and being an artist and photographer. Then I realised that online, so many other mother artists were doing the same and posting on social media. Stories of home, mothering care and connection intimacy and the light and dark of care, parenting and motherhood. I thought to myself, why is this so unseen?
Why isn’t there more of this vision and these stories?
Why can’t I find motherhood descriptions that aren’t perfect, that aren’t manufactured the male gaze?
That show real life, hardships, imperfections and all the duality that motherhood holds within it.
And that’s how I came to think about the “Mama gaze”, and Eye Mama Project, so I reached out to Alessia Glaviano, of Photo Vogue who I admired for her inclusive and diverse platform, and asked if she thought it was a good idea. She said she thought it was. And I decided to set up an Instagram account called “Eye Mama project” basically very simply, showcasing mama stories by photographers.
By artists who identify as mama worldwide.
I would curate this platform, and I would ask women / artists and non binary photographers to submit online to hashtag #eyemamaproject. This quickly grew into a social gathering a collective, a movement of mamas and artists like me wanting to find more truth on Instagram. more personal stories and truth in social media and in society, depicting the light and dark of motherhood .
We now have more than 15,000 followers with 50,000 submissions to the Eye Mama hashtag from 50 countries. So many powerful images. A collective vision that you cant ignore.
we had more than 4000 images submitted to the open call for the book, all by professional photographers worldwide. Which we are now publishing with teNeues.
Why book? Instagram is a great place to build community and a project worldwide. Its amazing and I’m grateful for that but its approach with censorship with nudity, motherhood breastfeeding and the nipple, cant sustain motherhood for long as a body of work. We had to find other ways to showcase true motherhood. It’s really empowered the Eye Mama Project community, its a collective power and story platform. but moving forwards the way Instagram is controlled and works, we wanted to create a physical form, that you could look at and your kids could look at, and it would exist in homes.
We wanted to make a book so that in history we would have something to look back upon.
Saying this is the mama gaze these are motherhood stories as a self portrait by photographers who identify as carers. This is history through the eyes of women and mothers the female gaze, mama gaze. And it shows a lot of rawness, truth, closeness detail beauty darkness imperfection and what it means to be a carer in 2000 and onwards.
I really believe that in the end, to have a just more equal society, we need to have more than one storyteller. We need to have stories by non-binary by mothers by fathers by carers by anyone who is underrepresented, it can’t just be a single lens which it has been for a long time, the male and the male gaze and white, male gaze has been the dominant story teller for years and years, and its time for change. For inclusion. And visibility. For other stories and when we say mamas we mean all kinds of narratives, IVF, adoption foster and step kids abortion miscarriage and all other forms of care and motherhood stages and stories. We also wanted to be democratic and include both photographers that are very very well known together with photographers that are less known, so we give a chance to showcase mothers who haven’t had time or the ability to stand out in the art world just yet, or in the photographic world.
We wanted to make it a level playing field and to include carers and to consider that as a factor so while curating the flavour for eye mama. I was really looking for the most powerful images. Thats it.
The most interesting the most unseen, the most shocking, the most emotional beautiful and heartbreaking images.
I made a book for myself, the answer to my quest to be "seen".
And I wanted to try and make a small difference, to give this visibility and shine a light on the stories. Like the cave walls were for cavemen and woman, social media and this book, I hope can be a document of our reality as mother and carers in these times.
Especially today there is so much more we need to do to empower mothers, but you can’t empower the invisible!
So the first thing we have to do is share the stories connect with them have empathy and try and give more visibility!
This community of Eye Mama Project has been an incredible source of power for me both in pandemic and post pandemic. Mainly, as Alessia Glaviano has said in her forward. This is a book about love and I hope I hope everyone who sees it will feel that message radiating through.Website - Eye Mama Project
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