My creative journey as a mum

Kairaki beach, New Zealand, photo Rebecca Smith

One day as I was leaving work at the British Museum, I accidentally dropped my phone from the top of a spiral staircase, straight down the middle — smashing on the ground six floors below. I wasn’t so worried about my phone but about the thousands of images I had lost of my child growing up from about the age of four to seven, all those precious memories at such a sweet phase of childhood. I recall some of the images: climbing a tree in Regents Park; wearing big glasses in the park with a bright blue football; sitting in a bucket filled with water with his friend one sunny evening, the light shining through the bright yellow bucket.

Perhaps it is because of these memories, and the loss, that I began to take lots of photos of my family, wanting to hold on to these precious moments, not just for myself but as something more universal about childhood and play— that is in itself precious because it is fleeting.

It was while I was on gardening leave, having left my job as a Graphic designer at the Museum, that I felt the need to create on a more personal level. I enrolled in a drawing course at the Royal Drawing School, and began drawing and taking photos compulsively over this period. I see photography as a way of drawing — finding a layout, thinking about themes of childhood and imagination, and expressing something of this in the image. As a mum, photography suits my life as it is quicker than drawing and something I can do while out playing with my child.

Weaver’s Adventure, photo Rebecca Smith

I began to see the streets around Bethnal Green differently. A mattress left on the street looked more like a princess bed when photographed in a low light, cobblestones turned gold in the autumn light and leaves floated on the windowsill in an invisible spider’s web. These things that I normally walked straight past left feelings of being in a fairytale and the streets as more of a stage. This view of the world reminds me of how my older boy used to view the world when he was about age four to seven — noticing little things left in the street, or the shape of a motorbike cover like a frog.

Columbia Road, photo by Rebecca Smith

When taking photos I think about what might make the image have this feeling of leading into another world: sometimes it is the light; sometimes it is the way it is composed, sort of like sketching out a drawing trying different angles and emphasis; often it is my little boy’s experience of the scene, the way he starts to fly when seeing a painting of a bird on a street wall, or crawl like a lion in the long grass. He runs and flys and jumps through life — directly experiencing the beauty of nature with a sort of dance.

It is in these moments where there is a pure joy of life through play and the experience of nature that I hope to capture something of the beauty of the world — that is as much a memory to hold on to as a fleeting moment.

Sun ray, Vicky Park, photo Rebecca Smith

My work will be on show at the Long White Cloud gallery & cafe in Hoxton from 1–31 August, opening 3 August 6pm.

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