There is No Such Thing as Perfect Parenting: The Sham of the Perfect

Photography: Jenny Rusby

By Hannah Schenker

Despite what Instagram and Pinterest may try to convince you, parenting is not perfect. We know that, yet many of us also take in those picture perfect parenting moments – neat homes with modern furniture drenched in sunlight, beautifully groomed and stylish mothers and clean children- and consciously or unconsciously, we can feel like we fail to measure up. A group of artists and mums are trying to combat “The Sham of the Perfect” with a photographic project portraying parenting and family life exactly as it is, in all its imperfection and glory.

The international collective of photographers, founded and run by Erika Roa, Lacey Monroe and Natasha Kelly, are passionate about documenting real life, and present “life, parenthood, families, childhood, and home as it actually is; full of flaws and full of beauty simultaneously”. The photographers submit images for weekly collective posts, write articles and provide additional blog content. They also feature various artists and projects that fall in with their same underlying message/mission. While their contributors hail from the US, Canada, Barbados, and Australia, they have featured artists from all over the world.

“Our project is a celebration of documentary family photography – that is presenting family life unstyled and untouched,” says Erika Roa. “We believe that life is at it’s most beautiful when it is all encompassing – including the ups, downs, messes, clean moments, and the serendipity that naturally occurs in the world.”

They began the project as a way to build a community around this idea, and to encourage the contributing photographers to continue shooting images and pushing their work forward.

“When we started the project back in 2014 it was harder to find photographers who appreciated and strove to create this type of work,” says Erika. “When taking workshops or presenting images on forums Lacey, Natasha and I would consistently be told that we should be cleaning up our images – either by shooting in a different location or making elements disappear in post processing. But we wanted to create real, honest, authentic images of our families and we knew that clean and “free of distractions” just wouldn’t ring true for our homes and families.”

Since starting the project they realised many other photographers feel the same way about their work, and they have continued to connect with people beyond their normal circle of photographers – both professional and hobbyist photographers. Erika says, “That connection is really at the heart of our project mission. We want to share images that prove that real life is beautiful enough, on its own, and it doesn’t need to be doctored.”

Here is just a small selection of their images depicting real family life – you can see more at Sham of the Perfect.

Vicki Hull
Robin Stephenson
Natasha Kelly
Natasha Kelly
Natasha Kelly
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