And We have enjoined on man concerning his parents—his mother bears him in weakness upon weakness, and his weaning takes two years—‘Give thanks to Me and to your parents. Unto Me is the final return. (Al Quran 31:14)
Stress, love, joy—what mothers photographed during the pandemic
More than 27,000 images have been submitted to the Eye Mama project, launched to bring mothers together during the isolation of COVID-19 and beyond.
Like many people, photographer Karni Arieli was stuck at home for most of 2020, living within the narrow confines imposed by the pandemic. To ease the tedium, Arieli—born in Israel and living in England—began taking pictures of her sons. When she realized that many other photographers were also turning their lenses on their families, “I thought, I should collect the stories of motherhood in lockdown.”
In April 2021 she launched the Eye Mama Project, an Instagram platform where she posts images of motherhood made by photographers from all over the world who identify as mothers. Arieli used the word “mama” because she considers it a term of endearment and connection.
“I wanted to come across all different cultures, ethnicities, sexualities—it includes people who have lost a child, have foster or adopted children, children through IVF, single sex parents, divorced parents, all the different variations of mamahood.”
Arieli has received more than 27,000 submissions from some 40 countries since she first invited photographers to share their images. There’ve been surprising challenges: Instagram briefly suspended the account, she suspects for nudity. “Motherhood and breastfeeding are removed a lot,” says Arieli, which makes her want to spotlight them even more.
In the past several months, mothers in Ukraine and Russia have been contributing images. “These women are in a time of need to share their stories,” Arieli says. To elevate their experiences, and their messages for an end to the fighting, she includes the hashtag #mamasforpeace in her posts.
For Mother’s Day, Arieli shared with National Geographic scenes of motherhood that are typically dismissed or invisible: “The tired moms, the dirty tables. The kind of storytelling you feel very intensely when you’re a mom.”