Exclusive interview with photographer and muse
Ilsa W. H. Kidd
What is the full name and ages of your children?
Wolfgang Wynne-Hoelscher Kidd (2.5 years old)
Thea Wynne-Hoelscher Kidd (3 months old)
Could you describe yourself in one sentence?
I’m a creative life-romantic that feels too deeply, a soft but strong woman and mother.
What was your life like, before motherhood?
Life before motherhood was incomplete. I found myself floating between jobs and projects, chasing down a clear direction as my heart and soul wasn’t able to match with reality or what was currently on the table for my taking. Being creative by nature, and as most creative people know, it’s a constant juggle between loving what you do and having to do what puts food on the table. I was still working myself out and what I wanted to spend my days on, as I knew that life’s short and moves fast. I was happy in so many ways, learning a lot, evolving, and I had a lot of time to myself (oh, hindsight), but undeniably searching for more. More new experiences, more love, more clarity, more joy, more reward, more from life. Birthing my first child, really did birth my truest, fullest self, the missing piece; motherhood.
What inspires your photography?
Life… my feelings, commonalities that connect me to others, motherhood (damn straight!), stories and personal journeys, imperfections absolutely draw me in, natural beauty (both aesthetic and felt), asymmetry and shapes and spaces and dust floating in pretty light, nature, windy weather, skin, freckles, my children, my family, my childhood, my body, travelling to new places, dark spaces (internal and external).
How did motherhood impact your career?
Motherhood gave me a new (and my most favourite) role in life, as well as a new sense of self. I learned there’s no time like now to take a risk and focus spare energy on what makes ‘me’. My thinking in that if I am my best self, and doing what I love (or trying to make it all work), then that is a happy space for my kids to grow. I want to teach them values and passion through doing, through being an example. With my love of motherhood as my driving force, and time on my hands (maternity leave), I decided to take my photography seriously and making a business out of it, both with client work and personal art with plans for collaborations, shows and published projects. Motherhood was/is an all-consuming love affair, and has inspired me on so many levels in many different ways. I fell for motherhood like I fell in love with my children, and from this branched into birth and family photography, documenting others’ stories in an honest and artful way. The mothers I photograph have so much to share, which I find so rewarding and satisfying. I even now get to call most of them my friends!
Did you experience postpartum depression?
I don’t believe I’ve experienced postpartum depression, but maybe bouts of it at times. I certainly feel an anxiety like never before now almost three months postpartum with my second. I also know of mothers who have severely gone through it and it’s been a debilitating time for them. Feeling such anxiety, whilst also the greatest amount of love for their newborn, that’s a lot to handle on little sleep and as life tasks go on. I think outside of postpartum depression all mothers go through a period of adjustment of ‘self’- creating and birthing a child changes you forever, even once they leave the womb, they are forever within you, a part of you. This experience along with all the hormonal changes is a rich mix of emotions, definitely at times giving you the blues, some very low lows and blissful highs. There are days (since having my children) where the world just makes me cry, or I feel so much guilt giving myself what I need, or the love inside me bursts so hard that my mind focuses on our human mortality. It can all become a little existential. So being a mother I think takes you to a higher level of feeling, of empathy. It’s a full experience and it’s not always a walk in the park. It can be lonely at times too. I’m finding at the moment that it’s so crucial to find your ‘village’, it really does make a whole lot of sense! And postpartum depression should be talked about more and more honestly. Hopefully to bring support closer or empower women to speak up or act on it, to listen to those feelings and not be ashamed. We as mothering women should shed more light on this side of pregnancy, birth and the postpartum period, as there’s already plenty of focus on the glamorous and sunny side of motherhood.
How was your second pregnancy different from your first?
My first pregnancy was a time of amazement and transformation. I felt extremely beautiful, full of life (literally!). It was my first time feeling maternal, and I had a deep love for my growing baby, feeling very connected to him and the unbelievably rich experience. My second pregnancy was very similar physically, however emotionally a very different journey. My daughter was deeply loved from the moment I knew she was there (which was quite early- I’ve been pretty in tune with my body my whole life), just like my son’s pregnancy, however what caught me by surprise was the heartache of closing one chapter (being a Mum to one, my most loved life-experience to that date) and opening my heart, to what life with two would be like. I didn’t expect to go through that, as we always wanted more than one child and this wasn’t a surprise pregnancy. She was very much wanted and loved. So I spent the pregnancy desperately trying to slow down and find time to connect to this journey and my baby. In the end, it was actually the most connected time- I had dreamy visions and little messages from her, and a lot of subconscious cleansing and dialogue with myself. What sort of Mum did I want to be? What life did we want to live? What did I want to give to my children, values to model, connections to make… what relationship did I want with each of them, and how would they differ? How would I raise a boy and a girl, both wired differently but my heart set on teaching them equality? It was a deeply spiritual time, which made me shed a lot of my old self I no longer needed, and redefine myself as a Mother once more. A time of discovery, growth, expansion, not just for my baby but for me, for my family. It was only after I had gone through this process (nine months and 10 days…) to then be wholeheartedly ready, and for her to know to come to me, to us. And she did so (we did so), in the most connected and loving labour and birth.
What is life like now with two?
Busy! Full, colourful, noisy, funny, heartwarming, heartbreaking, tiring, so lovely.
You feel most beautiful when?
I’m being cuddled, patted, pinched, tickled, bitten, kissed, loved by my family. And all the soft mummy-curves and marks are so beautiful, unique and remind me of the best times.
Who would be your dream muse to photograph?
Oh wow, I don’t think I can answer that, there’s too many wonderful, curious people. But I would never turn down a shoot with Jane Birkin and her children, what an icon, I’d love to document them together now. Also, if I could go back in time I would’ve loved to have candidly documented the family life of John Lennon, Yoko Ono and darling son Sean.
When you get a quiet moment, what do you like to do the most?
I like to indulge in some personal space, usually this means going outside into the fresh air and sunshine to reenergize. However I’m prone to not spend that time getting some rest, instead thrilled to be able to work on projects uninterrupted.
Who is your Mother Muse?
I don’t have just one… I’m inspired, strengthened, empowered and amazed by so many mothers I see and meet that are balancing life, work, adventure and raising healthy, happy children. Like my Mum did also. Hats off to you
Mother Muse Ilsa W. H. Kidd, self-portrait series
Photography work here