With her project Someone Else, Toronto-based photographer Chloë Ellingson documents the life of a young mother, focusing on "the intersection of family and the sense of self" in an attempt to address her own feelings about parenthood. She speaks to Gemma Padley
“I met Lauren when we were both at university, but we didn’t get to know each other well at the time,” recounts Chloë Ellingson, a Toronto-based photographer. “When I heard she was pregnant I was both surprised and curious, and imagined what my own life would be like if I were in the same position. I started following Lauren’s blog and was struck by how insightful her view of this life-change was. Both our peer groups assumed that people need to have achieved key milestones before becoming parents. Lauren’s experience was not what she had planned, but she plunged into it anyway. Hearing her talk about her life, and watching her with her family, helped me demystify the experience of parenthood.”
Ellingson began photographing Lauren three years ago, while studying photojournalism at Loyalist College in Belleville, Ontario. “I knew I was interested in the idea of women becoming mothers at a young age, but I didn’t have much clarity about the project beyond that,” she says. “Lauren and I kept in touch, and in October I went back to Montreal [where she lives]. That’s when I started producing images I was happy with. What interests me most about Lauren’s life is how she has incorporated motherhood into who she is as a person. I wanted to show a strong young woman who has taken on a life role earlier than she thought she would – and one that she embraces with courage and love.” She adds: “Many of the pictures were taken between points in our conversations, while for others I tried to make myself scarce. I find my best images usually arise from being attuned to what’s happening in the moment rather than looking for something that exists first within my own mind.
The project, Someone Else, is ongoing and Ellingson intends to visit Lauren and her family again this summer. She is also “laying the groundwork” for two projects: one that will look at how her own community views childbirth; the other is a video project that will consider how heritage affects the decisions people make for themselves and their families. “I’m interested in the intersection of family and the sense of self, and I’ve noticed that my project ideas seem to revolve around the concept of family and my own feelings about parenthood,” she explains.