My Dead Mom
By: Lauren Gallow
After my mom died I inherited all of our family photo albums and scrapbooks. Looking through these treasure books, I was drawn to three very special scrapbooks that my mom made in the late 1970s when she was a senior in high school and then during her first few years of college. I remember flipping through these books for the first time and having the uncanny feeling that I was looking at myself. I look so much like my mom in these photographs, it blew my mind.
Naturally, I became obsessed with these photos. The formats, the colors, the amazing outfits my mom was wearing... I got a little sick about it. I realized after a few months had gone by that I was gravitating towards clothing that resembled my mom's style in the late 1970s/early 1980s. Calf-length circle skirts, denim, and high-waisted jeans had become my uniform. Looking at the photos of my mom again after making a big move to Seattle, I realized the outfits were just the surface level of what I had been doing all those months. What I was really trying to do, deep down in my heart, was embody my mom. Embody her spirit, her magical way of being in the world. Embody her radiance, her openness, her confidence and her grace. My mom had the biggest heart I have ever seen and was so willing to share it with everyone around her, never with an ounce of guilt attached or need for reciprocation. She epitomized the idea of loving without binding.
Thus began the "My Dead Mom" photo project. I started calling it that as a joke (I have a tendency to make jokes about my dead mom... hey, coping mechanisms come in many forms, ok!), and the name just sort of stuck. For this project, I am recreating these treasured photographs of my mom, but with me in the place of Lynda. I went into the project with the goal of trying to reconnect with my mom in a new way. To try and capture, in myself, the sense of ease and confidence she seems to radiate in these photographs. I want to have that and cultivate that in myself, as a way of connecting with her, but also as a way of connecting to the truest part of me. I am interested in the experience of recreating these photos as a way of connecting with myself and with her. Thus, the photograph becomes more a documentation of that process rather than being the one and only thing. I want the process to be joyful and easeful and perhaps I will get emotional, and I am anticipating that. I get really self-conscious when my photograph is being taken, so I want to explore myself in that space as well. I wonder if there will be something about "acting" like my mom for these photo sessions that will help me get out of myself a little, get out of my fear/self-conscious/awkward place and into something deeper and truer for me. On the day of the first photo shoot, I journaled a bit on this topic before any photographs were taken.
My dear friend Melissa Walbridge photographed me in the first of this series, and I couldn't have asked for a better partner. Not only is Mel a hugely loving and giving friend, but her skills as a photographer continue to amaze me.
Love to me, love to you, love to my mom.
Lauren Gallow is a writing coach, author, and baking enthusiast currently living in Seattle, WA.