For her ongoing project Another 52 Weeks, Sea Cliff, New York-based photographer Melanie Acevedo chronicles the daily life of her children each week, constructing an infinite and inexhaustible family photo album. The project, which she began four years ago when her daughter Violet was eight and her son Rockwell three, has traced the boy and girl through the seasons and back again, celebrating the ecstasy of summer and the silent mystery of winter months. Updated weekly on Tumblr, the series preserves moments of pain and reverie, small miracles injected within ordinary days.
The images are punctuated by statements by the artist, recorded January 1st of each year, passages that read like diary entries reflecting on the year past and the one to come. While the children themselves are forever in the moment at hand, enthralled by a lost tooth or a giant bubble, we see them through the gaze of the mother, colored with the exquisite wistfulness and acute yearning that comes with age and the inevitable passage of time. Writes Acevedo, “I wanted my children to see how I saw them, since memories fade. . . my images will be a part of their memories, my gift to them. . . the everyday moments of our lives together.” We spoke with Acevedo about the project.
What made you decide to embark on this project with your kids? And how long have you been working on it?
“After shooting commercially for many years, I started feeling like there were moments in the normal, everyday part of my life that I was overlooking. Of course, I had always taken photos of my children, but I had never really considered them anything more than ‘snapshots,’ images not to be taken seriously, never to be shown to a prospective client. These images, these ‘snapshots,’ had not been done with any purpose in mind, as my work for clients is done always with an intent and an objective to fulfill a given assignment.
“About 6 years ago, I was working with one of my agents at the time, Trisha Burlingham, on a huge edit of my work, and she came across a box of these so called ‘snapshots.’ She was incredibly excited about them and was convinced that I was sitting on images that were really, really good and just not taking that part of myself seriously.
“I totally agreed with her on the part about not taking them seriously. How could these be of any value, with no styling, no set up, no pre-conceived ideas, no direction? But I was awakened to a new idea about what I had been doing. I had never really considered anything I did outside of commissioned work of any real value, except to myself and my family.
“I started really looking and thinking about the idea of the snapshot, family pictures, personal work, all of those things and what they could mean to me in a new and different way. I realized that there was indeed great value in capturing the everyday moment, and for me, those moments were about the most important people in my life: my children.
“In 2010, I decided to give myself an assignment to hang my ideas on, one in which I would photograph the kids every week. Now, this I know is by no means a new idea, but for me, so busy producing commercial work for a living, it was a way to try and start focusing my eye in a different way, and giving myself the structure to work on it on a regular basis, which enable me to look at the progress that may or may not happen photographically over a period of time. I am now in my 4th year of this project. And it is my intention to do it for the rest of my life. It is my legacy to my children.”
All of these photos are available through Offset. What made you decide to release the images in this way?
“When I was approached by Offset, I was extremely hesitant. Selling these felt weird to me. Then, the more I thought about it, the more I realized that as a freelance photographer with no set income, that hey, this was a good idea, because I could save any money that came in from selling these photos and have it for the kids for their education and future, and then I LOVED the idea!”
How do your children feel about the camera?
“Well, depends on when you ask them! You know, kids’ moods change constantly! Sometimes they are totally into having me take their pictures and are really hamming it up, and other times they are are screaming at me to leave them alone! However, they are really used to being around the camera, so a lot of times, they really could care less!”
Is there anything that you’ve discovered while working on Another 52 Weeks?
“I have discovered and learned so, so much. About my kids, my life, my photography. It has opened me up to a whole new way of shooting when I’m working. I am not as careful, and what I would call ‘uptight’ when I am shooting. I now tend to want to see what happens and evolves on sets, and when I am working with a subject, I am much more open to the beauty of the mistake or the spontaneous. I have loosened up my compositional structure as well. It is kind of frustrating though, as most of my clients do come to me expecting the more structured set up, but I am very aware that transitions take time.
“I have also most importantly learned how very precious the day to day moments of life are. I realize that I will not always be with my children, that I have a mortality, that they will exist one day without me. That all of the moments we shared together will perhaps be distilled into the few that they can remember. These photos then will be a kind of visual dairy for them. They will actually have my memories to look at. I find that this is such a powerful idea. They will be able to see themselves as I saw them, in their everyday lives, from year to year. I can think of no greater gift to them, as a mother and a photographer. I have come to value these images more than any other I take.”
All photos featured in this post can be found on Offset, a new curated collection of high-end commercial and editorial photography and illustration from award-winning artists around the world. Offset is an exclusive category channel partner on Feature Shoot.