Claiborne Swanson Frank

Claiborne Swanson Frank, the New York-based photographer whose career began at US Vogue, is best known for capturing a very particular kind of glamorous warmth. Her latest book Mother And Child (Assouline), bound in a delicious shade of shocking pink, takes in 70 ultra-chic families and their unique philosophies on living well. Here, the mother of two – to Hunter and Wilder – shares her inspiration and thoughts on motherhood

  1.  
  2. Interview NATASHA INCHLEY

  1.  
  2.  

Y our pictures are as much about good style as they are about capturing an emotional connection – what do you hope the audience takes away from your work?

At the end of the day I am a story teller. I use my portraits to tell stories of women, stories of life and stories of love. I hope to share this love I have witnessed and captured – to share those moments of beauty and joy, to remind us all of the power of motherhood, and its greatest gift of all, to be loved and to love in return.

What ignited your love of photography and what is your approach when photographing a new assignment? 

I have been moved and inspired by images all my life. Photography always spoke to my soul. I love that a photograph captures a moment in time, a moment that happened and will never happen again. Photography documents humanity and is the greatest artifact we have of our lives. My approach is to stay present, and trust my intuition and shoot from my heart.

  1.  

Your latest book Mother And Child is such a gorgeous tribute to women and the way in which they raise their families with love. What inspired you to create this photo series? 

Motherhood transformed my world. In many ways, I was a child until I had my own children. My small reality of life and my own needs exploded with the birth of my first son. I suddenly felt a responsibility and purpose I had never known before. With my new insight, I felt inspired to tell a modern story of motherhood, to document and honour this profound human experience. My hope was to take portraits of mothers and their children that captured love and joy, to try to stop time in a series of portraits – and show how this experience connects us all. It’s one of the great commonalities of humanity.

What was one of the greatest surprises in producing this book? 

I was surprised by how many more similarities we have as mothers than differences. I found that as mothers we are all imperfect and yet we are all doing the best we can to love our children with all that we have and raise loving and kind human beings. 

Did you grow up in a creative environment, who inspired you along the way?

My parents are very creative; my mother is also a passionate photographer. My mother taught me to keep an open heart when I shoot – to look for the beauty and the soul in all things.

At what point did you feel that you were on your way as a photographer? 

I feel so lucky to be an artist and share my stories with the world. I have published three books in six years. Because of this, I think my confidence comes from practice, from learning, from trusting in the universe and chasing the dreams in my heart. 

And today, is there a creative theme or common thread you keep returning to in your work?

My work always centres around women; women who are creating – creating life and creating art. I also am documenting culture and a moment in time. I feel inspired to document culture to leave stories behind for my children and my grandchildren.

Style is also key – can you describe your own style and what you love about fashion and design?

I love fashion and design. My background is fashion, as I started my career at Vogue magazine. For me one’s personal style and the environments in which we live, are our greatest tools in expressing our identities. As a photographer, I use fashion and design as well as nature as the foundation of my portraits.   

What is your viewpoint on motherhood?

Motherhood is one of the most powerful life experiences a woman can have. The creation of a child is a miracle — the reality that from love we can create a life is one of the great mysteries of life. Once we create this life we as mothers are forever responsible for this human being, for their health, happiness, and protection. Our jobs as mothers never end, so motherhood unlike childhood is an experience that lasts a life time.  

And how do you nurture your own children’s creativity?

Day by Day, allowing free time so they can create in their own authentic way. 

And lastly, in those rare moments, how do you indulge or really reward yourself? 

I love laying in the sun, reading or writing. I love long walks in nature and I love facials and massages. 

Mother And Child by Claiborne Swanson Frank is available from Assouline.com