When it comes to the passport status of Rebecca Frances Burns, let’s just say globetrotter puts it lightly. The international development and education activist has photographed women and children across the world — from grandmothers in rural Tibet to six-year-old playmates in Rwanda. Moms of LA, her upcoming project with LENA, launches later this month — and we couldn’t be more eager to showcase her work. An LA-based mom herself, Burns chats with LENA about the series, motherhood, and the evolving metropolis in the era of #MeToo.
Tell us about Moms of LA! What are some of your goals with the series?
Mothers today carry a desire to do it all: to have their ideal birth experience, to work and to be there for family. It’s possible, but it’s often grittier than the images of perfection that are portrayed so widely. There’s a growing shift towards telling the truth about the breadth of experience and emotion that is parenting. I hope to reveal more of the inner dialogue with self and body. Who are we stripped down?
As for the series’ location, LA is having a rebirth of sorts. There’s a new wave of mothers who live and work in LA who seem to interweave their families into what they do. These mums are rock and roll, artists, professionals, business owners. I’m curious as to how we can flourish in the city while building roots for our young ones.
On top of that, I was nine months pregnant when I walked alongside so many millions of people for the Women’s March last January. That power and resistance has been growing over the past year and it’s exciting to see where we are now. LA is giving me a front row seat to the changing face and structure in Hollywood, the breaking down of its patriarchal structures. It’s exciting to imagine a new landscape — what this means for mothers and daughters to be.
How has becoming a mother changed the way you approach your work?
The ‘becoming a mother’ transformation takes time and I’m still learning what that means to my craft. I hope to include my daughter Anouk in my photography process because it is so centered around my relationship to humans and the desire to find connection. One thing that every human can relate to is the love story between mother and child.
What was the most powerful realization you had after becoming a mother?
That my identity would change. I'm no longer the woman I was before Anouk, because she has irrevocably changed me, softened me, awakened me and made me question everything that I believed to be important. I am still made up of all the experiences that came before, but now I am developing into myself as a mother, too. This shift feels more stark than I imagined.
How did pregnancy affect your relationship with your body?
I was quite surprised by my reaction to my body’s changing shape. The first trimester was especially difficult as I was gaining weight but didn’t show that I was pregnant. I always imagined that I would celebrate my pregnant body but instead, I felt rather out of control. I gained 40 pounds during and many new mums told me the weight would just fall off with breastfeeding. But that’s not how prolactin [the hormone that helps women produce breast milk] works for me. We are all so different. My body showed me that it has its own timeline.
If you could tell future mothers one thing, what would it be?
To grow a human and raise them in today’s world is no easy feat. Be easy on yourself and slow down if you can. In the grand scheme of life our time with little ones is so short. Enjoy each moment because the only constant is change.
Find Rebecca Frances Burns on Instagram @being_awake.