The Art of Balancing Time

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Words & Photography
by Melissa Barrett

When I'm at home, I shoot the quiet moments, baking moments, toddler moments with my iPhone. I don't own a digital camera anymore since I went 100% film about two years ago. The iPhone lets me document a personal moment, one that's real, that's happening, and then put the phone away and keep on living. When I shoot film, I take more time, set-up, and work with another person.

I'm a photographer connecting with creators and makers for collaborative projects, a community builder for creativity in my town, and recently I was asked to join the team at Photographer Quarterly as the Community Director behind the scenes. Add to that a mother of a 3 year old, a full time librarian currently working on a librarian masters degree, and a wife.

Sometimes I have trouble finding time to breathe. Each one of these roles requires my heart to be open, my mind to be brave and clear, and a lot of my time. I photograph because I find that I engage with my world, and the people in it, in an entirely new dynamic. I am more active, alive, and aware than I ever would have been before just observing and talking.
I can't go anywhere...she's asleep two doors down. So I explore light and movement in this tiny space on the other side of the house.
But when I am at home with my family, I have to be intentionally involved with both my daughter and my husband, and, at the same time, intentionally take a breathing moment for myself to keep everything moving healthily.

I started creating self-portraits (taken with my iPhone) on the weekends in the house when my daughter takes a nap. For me, this is indicative of being a mom. I can't go anywhere, can't explore, can't have friends over; she's asleep two doors down. So I explore light and movement in this tiny space on the other side of the house.

No matter your creative ambitions, with a daughter, or any child, that person has to come first. Sometimes I bake with her, no phone, no camera because it's not fair to her for my attention to be divided. Sometimes I have to choose, because it is always a choice, to stop whatever I'm working on because she really wants me to blow bubbles with her.

I am working on this with my husband as well. We both work full time, and both are in engaged in major projects. He is a phenomenal mountain biker, but has had to pause on racing to go through school and get a job to help support us, even though that is something he never would have chosen. We recently struggled through one of the most difficult valleys a relationship can go through, but decided to keep moving forward together. But at the end of the day, after work, after mothering, when it's just me and him, I want to work on photography, connections, journaling.

That is what I mean by a choice. I have to choose which days I hang out with my husband, talk about books, watch Orange is the New Black, and which days I work on schoolwork, photography, making mocassins (I just started my first pair!), etc.

However, on the weekends we have started trying to go on adventures as a family: camping, exploring dried lake beds and downtown buildings, and making fires in the backyard.

I'm almost 30, so I often feel like I have to move at a fast pace to do everything I want to do, but family can't be placed on the backburner. When you create, it has to come from an authentic place inside of you, wrapped in all your lost time, in struggles of humanity, faulty relationships, lost friends, regrets, hopes, on four hours of sleep, too much coffee or too much whiskey.
When you create, it has to come from an authentic place inside of you...
Building a photography brand is maybe third on my list now. Second is connecting with people I didn't know could be important, but maybe they are. And first is connecting with the important people in my life and letting art come out of that.

Instagram: @melissalaree


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