Jelly Beans for Breakfast
by Jenny Crawford
My children are getting older, and I’ve been reflecting on Pablo Picasso’s comments, “Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up.”
Lately I’ve felt thrown off balance as my understanding of the complexities of this world seems to have slipped from my grasp, and I’ve been questioning myself on how I can explain to my sons things I have no answer to myself.
In happy exile to Kitty Hawk on the Outer Banks of North Carolina, I became both witness and co-conspirator to their wildness, developing a deeper understanding of who they are through my camera lens. I began to live for the pauses that daily responsibilities and obligations so often rob us and go forgotten.
The memories came rushing back: the smell of swamp peat after a humid rainfall in the Tidewater area I grew up, bramble scrapes on mosquito scabbed legs, catching fireflies in cupped hands running breathless until arms fling in the air to release the light like a firework “POP.”
And for all that re-lived youth, I realized the art they were teaching me.
Motherhood isn’t easy and you’re always told there’s no guidebook; there’s the second guessing, the comparisons, the meltdowns, the unsolicited advice, the constant juggling, expectations and boundaries that put limitations on fulfilling who you want to – or can be. I’m a parent, a wife, an employee, a volunteer, but I’m also myself. If there was a silver lining for me, personally, to come out of the pandemic, it was to take that breath. To savour the amount of time given to me with my sons, born out of challenging circumstances, that I never had before, and likely will never have again. The camera helped to cut through all the noise that had been constant; I don’t think I knew till that point how to be fully present, how to not bend to competitions for my attention. It was just my family, my camera, and me.
This project is a snapshot in time, March through May of 2020, that was my tether from the uncertainty and fear of that moment. To keep looking for silver linings, to sometimes go ahead and eat jelly beans for breakfast. It is my guidebook to motherhood. A reminder that, even as things return to “before,” this is the mother I want to be.
Jenny Crawford is a documentary and conceptual photographer, drawn to documenting the beauty, playfulness and mystery of daily life. With a background in literature from the College of William & Mary, her photographic pursuits are grounded in a search for symbolism and often an exploration of color. As of late, she has fixed her lens on a long term study of family. One of those projects, Jelly Beans for Breakfast, was created through deep observation of her children and their reaction to isolation soon after the pandemic reached the United States.
As a fundraiser for a homeless shelter, Jenny understands first-hand how the language of photography can impact change. She is currently working on the launch of BurnFoundation, the charitable branch of Burn Magazine, which will further support U.S. and international photographers working on projects of broad humanitarian interest.Jenny, her husband, and two boys reside in Annapolis, MD and Kitty Hawk, NC.
Photo Essay edited by Alejandra Martínez Moreno