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Mother and Child

This assignment ran from Jun 10 to Jul 1, 2015.

[A] mother is one to whom you hurry when you are troubled. —Emily Dickinson

For this assignment I want you to photograph what "Mother and Child" means to you, to your community, or to your culture. But this assignment also doesn't need to be so literal. For instance, even though I have not yet had children, I consider myself a mother. I am a mother to the children in my photographs, whether they realize it or not. I am a mother to my friends and family when needed. I am a mother to my pets. The words that come to mind for me are "nurture," "compassion," "protection," and "unconditional love."

I chose Mother and Child as this month's theme in large part because I've spent much of the last decade photographing young women and girls who were forced into marriage at very young ages and became mothers while still children themselves. I now run a nonprofit called Too Young to Wed, and our goal is simple: to protect girls' rights and end child marriage. We do this by providing visual evidence of the human rights challenges faced by women and girls around the world. We then transform advocacy into action on the ground by providing financial support to local NGOs that we know are doing amazing work to help the girls we photograph. It will be great to see what images you come up with on this theme, and I hope to learn a lot from the beautiful work you create. Who knows, I may even want to publish one of them on our blog! 

So feel free to interpret this assignment as it is appropriate for you, wherever this finds you in the world. See the Editor’s Update below for some initial tips and advice.

Curated by:

Stephanie Sinclair
National Geographic Photographer
Assignment Status
  • Open

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  • Closed

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  • Published

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Published Jul 13, 2015.
Thank you for your contributions!

Moments that Emanate Love

Posted jun 29, 2015

Hello everyone! Thank you for continuing to share so many beautiful images. It's a joy to open my computer and feel the flood of warmth and affection between mothers and children worldwide come pouring out through your images. Thank you for filling my days with love!

 As you can see for yourself, the images that stand out are images that bring us past the expected "mother and child" pose. They show us what it's like for a mother to have the flu while she's at home with her children, to take a nap with a child in the middle of a hot workday, or to share a tender moment as the caregiver of a baby elephant. While the traditional image of a mother holding a child can be beautiful, your version of that must be exceptional or show us something new in order for it to stand out from among the nearly 7,500 submissions we've received so far.

I also want to applaud those who made the effort to shoot something specifically for this assignment. Of course, this isn't required, but as I said before, it is always good to challenge yourself in real time. The captions have also improved, so thank you for that. I'd like to remind people to be careful with the use of Photoshop or post-processing tools. I have asked a few people to resubmit the image less altered so it is not disqualified, which will happen if the post-production is too heavy-handed. The best, most pure photographs are created in-camera anyway.

Legendary photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson, spoke about “the decisive moment,” that split second of genius and inspiration that a photographer has to capture a certain moment. This is when all of the elements you are looking for come together in an instant—light, composition, color, and the moment. Another photographer whose work you can reference is the late, great Mary Ellen Mark. Her ability to find unique moments that emanate love is unparalleled. Both photographers are worth researching, if you are not aware of their work. You will definitely be inspired!

Make Your Images The Best They Can Be

Posted jun 25, 2015

Wow! What a treat to see so many gorgeous images from the "Mother and Child" assignment. It has been a very moving experience seeing such expressions of love and bonding from across the globe and through all walks of life. The sheer variety of experience shared -- from pregnancies to just seconds after a birth, through the joys and strains motherhood, and even death -- offers us a learning experience like no other. Importantly, with your stunning shots of whales, alligators, leopards, birds and various types of insects, you've reminded us that mother and child relationships span the entire animal kingdom, and aren't just an artifact of the human experience. 

Moving forward, I have just a few things for you to keep in mind to help you make your images the best they can be. First and foremost: captions. Captions are so important. It is hard for viewers like myself and the readers and editors at National Geographic to know the depth of the moments in your images without proper caption information. For so many of the photographs of people in particular, it feels like we are missing too much of the story. Certainly, an image can exist in a vacuum as a pretty picture, but when have you known National Geographic to simply leave it at that? 

So, for those of you photographing the human animal, I'd like to challenge you to have conversations with the people in your photographs. I know that can be an intimidating prospect, but, I promise, it is exceptionally rewarding. The basics of any caption should contain the 5Ws -- who, what, when, where, why. I also find that knowing my subjects' backgrounds allows me to make images that are more intimate and better share their story. I promise this will not only make your images stronger and more likely to get published in the magazine, but will enhance your photographic experience. 

I'd like to also challenge you to shoot something specific for this assignment. Looking at the metadata for the images, I can see that many were not shot within during the time of this assignment. This is your chance to get real-time feedback and repost another image to see if you've improved. And one of the benefits of this assignment is that it is subject matter that is all around us, every day in some form. 

Lastly, I've been moved to see that some of you have shared stories and images about their encounters with young mothers, some who were married at young ages. If you would like for those to be highlighted on our @TooYoungToWed Instagram feed, please post them to your account and tag us! I will be keeping an eye out for images to share with our community as well.

Thank you for making this such a delightful project to work on and I look forward to seeing more amazing images! 

Photograph from the Heart

Posted jun 10, 2015

A few things to keep in mind:

- Great photographs not only show what something looks like but also what it feels like for both the subject of your photograph and for you as a witness to the moment.

- Before heading out to make your images, take time to think about what you want to say about the theme Mother and Child. You have a large audience here in the Your Shot community, and one of these images will end up in National Geographic magazine. This is your chance to share your message through the beautiful medium of photography.

- If photographing people you don't know, be sure to talk with them, build trust, tell them why you're drawn to photograph them. Then, once they get comfortable with you, step back, let them forget about you, and watch for something special and authentic to happen.

- This assignment is about photographing from the heart. It is most important to photograph what you care about and not worry about making a perfect photograph. Remember, the personal becomes universal in a strong photograph. But you have to be careful to avoid the pitfalls of making a generic “stock image”—photograph it all and then edit yourself.

Your approach can range from creating an intimate portrait to documenting the mother and child relationship as it happens in your community. I just ask that you please do not overuse Photoshop or other editing tools. I want to see the images as you've shot them. Please also include strong caption information.

I very much look forward to seeing your amazing Mother and Child photographs!

This assignment ends July 1, 12PM EDT. Photos from your archive are allowed, however we always recommend photographing new images for each assignment. 

Stephanie Sinclair

Stephanie Sinclair

National Geographic Photographer
Stephanie Sinclair is an American photojournalist known for gaining unique access to sensitive gender and human rights issues around the world. After university, Sinclair worked for the Chicago Tribune, which sent her to cover the lead up to the war in Iraq. She later moved to the Middle East covering the region for six years as a freelance photographer. A regular contributor to National Geographic and The New York Times Magazine, Sinclair is the recipient of numerous awards including the CARE International Award for Humanitarian Reportage, the Overseas Press Club’s Olivier Rebbot Award, a Pulitzer Prize, two Visa D’Ors, and three World Press Photo awards. In 2010, Sinclair’s photographs of self-immolation in Afghanistan were exhibited as part of the Whitney Biennial in New York. She is an owning member of VII Photo Agency in NY.