Interview with family photographer Chelsea Macor
We have been so delighted to work with Chelsea over the years particularly around Mother's Day when she has shared her skills with us through Mini Mother's Day Portrait Sessions. Chelsea Macor is a local Seattle-based photographer whose thoughtful family photos inspire us daily. We recently had the chance to interview her thanks to conversations about Mother's Day Portraits for 2022!
Sarah-Lambert Cook, interviewer
Your work is such a lovely blend of candor and soft romance. I love how the lighting is often just soft enough to feel like the subject is embraced and yet you bring such a raw vulnerability to the space. Can you tell me a little about your inspirations and process? How do you achieve such an effect?
Thank you so much, Sarah-Lambert. That contrast of beauty and rawness is important to me. I strive to show the dichotomy between bliss and the heavy challenges of motherhood and families.
I owe much of it to my client’s willingness to be open and trusting with me. I don’t just show up and start clicking away. I have a phone call with every potential client that I say will be 20 minutes but often ends up longer because we get carried away passionately discussing life and parenting. When I arrive at a session, I make time to settle in and connect. During my sessions, I make space for families to slow down and have time together.
In terms of lighting and softness, window light is my jam. I love coming into people’s homes and yards. There is a level of intimacy and comfort built into the setting. When we are outside the home I love the beginning or final moments of the day soft blues and golden light. Plus flowers. Always flowers.
These last couple of years have yielded 2 beautiful projects. Can you tell me a little bit about your Motherhood in Isolation project?
Motherhood in Isolation was a project born out of how lonely and hard I felt mothering Rufus, my then 4-year-old, after the world shut down. This isolation and lack of a village was a pain point for me before the pandemic and then Covid hit and I felt it tenfold. I felt desperate to know how other mothers were feeling and a need to show it and tell their stories. This is a driving force behind all my work. Getting beyond the “fine” to answer “how are you?” Every time a mother tells me how much she hates playing pretend I feel so much less alone and less like a “bad mom.”
The photographs themselves were incredible to make. Everything was closed and we all realized the promises of this ending soon were empty. I hadn’t seen anyone but David and Rufus in a month. Photographing through windows and doors was such a unique experience. I still make photographs like that, but I don’t have to shout directions or call and discuss what to do ahead of time. I am so grateful to those moms for their vulnerability and honesty.
Motherhood in Isolations Part I & Part II
What about the new “Into Motherhood” poetry + photo series with Michelle Bengson? How did that come into being?
I met Michelle, a poet and upfront mother, through a mutual friend on Instagram. Her work resonated with me because of its honesty and beauty. It encompasses the tenderness and the challenges. We both felt a pull to each other and a united desire to explore the dichotomy of motherhood and tell women’s stories through our art. And thus Into Motherhood was born. Photos, Interviews, and poems digging into life as a mother. It is so fun to get the poems from Michelle after I have sent the photos and we have interviewed our subject. The best surprises.
Is there a particular poem by Michelle that resonates this Mother’s Day for you?
I think one of my favorite poems by Michelle is “The Ship is Sinking.” I choke up every time I read it. What a perfect description of what goes into parenting right now.
I also adore “Asleep in the Sling.” My little boy lived in baby carriers until he had outgrown them all. Mabel is slightly more independent, but I cherish every moment I can sniff her little head and give her kisses when she is riding so close.