When you’re a mom going through the motions of everyday life — brushing little people’s hair, buckling kids in car seats, and potty training — it can be easy to get lost in the monotony of days that seem to fade into each other.
But where you might see just an ordinary day, photographer Stephanie Woodward sees something a little different: She sees something extraordinary.
Woodward, 29, a documentary photographer and videographer from Salt Lake City, Utah, specializes in documenting the beauty of everyday life, bringing what so many of us of dismiss to the forefront so we can see it in a whole new way. When I came across her pictures on her Instagram page, @stephwoodwardphotos, I literally gasped aloud at the photo of a mom simply hanging out next to her daughter using the toilet. How many times have I done that in my life with my four young kids? Hundreds? Thousands?
I’ve spent countless minutes perched on the bathtub or a footstool waiting for someone small to finish using the toilet. My daughter especially loves me to accompany her to the restroom and chat with me the entire time she’s in there. It’s a scene that I have repeated over and over again during my mothering days, but not once did I think to see it in the way that Woodward did through her camera, somehow capturing the relentless patience, commitment, and love of a mom to a child in one ordinary moment.
The mom of two daughters herself, aged 3 and 6, Woodward notes that although her formal training is in elementary education, she began studying photography on her own after her first daughter was born. She soon noticed that while the world of photography seemed to be focused on perfectly stylized and edited images, her real life was completely different. The disconnect she saw between other photographers’ picture-perfect images and her own messy, imperfect life eventually led Woodward to make a change from seeking out the “perfect shot” to discovering the truly beautiful photo that had been in front of her all along.
“I began picking up my camera to discover the magic already hiding in my messy and chaotic life as a mom of two little girls, just the way it was,” she tells Babble. “Bringing to light the beauty in those oh-so-ordinary moments helped me see my life in a different way and really love it for what it was.”
As she began sharing more of her work, Woodward says that not only did the way she viewed her own life change, but her photos seemed to resonate with others as well.
“There is something powerful about actually seeing yourself in your own life, realizing just how much you matter,” she notes.
In her photography, Woodward specializes in highlighting the routine moments that go overlooked, especially for mothers, like a mother buckling a toddler in his seat, combing her son’s hair, or reading books — the very things that make up our everyday lives until, suddenly one day, they don’t. And it’s exactly those little things that mark our lives as mothers, but we don’t realize how incredibly precious they are until they slowly fade away.
“So much of what we do goes seemingly unnoticed and unappreciated, so I love showing moms a glimpse of just how beautiful, valuable, important and loved they are,” Woodward says.
When Woodward presents her photos back to families, she notes that oftentimes, they are surprised to see just how beautiful those average, everyday moments actually are. As parents, we tend to downplay everything we do all day, but when seen through the eyes of someone else? Well, we can start to see ourselves in a whole new light too.
“The endless to-do lists and demands of raising kids can make the everyday feel mundane and very un-glamorous,” she explains. “We know our kids are adorable and we love them, but sometimes it takes looking in from an outside perspective to see just how beautiful and wonderful our lives really are.”
Woodward documents her photography on her Instagram page with the tagline “Life doesn’t have to be perfect to be wonderful,” which is exactly what her photos embody. She has captured everything from families dealing with illnesses to ordinary photo shoots at home to spending time with a father and his children in his last days, surrounded by the people and things that he loved. But no matter what she is capturing, she focuses on bringing to light the simple beauty of everyday moments that so often go overlooked before they disappear forever.
“The ordinary moments with the people we love won’t always be there,” Woodward says. “Every single stage of life is worth treasuring and documenting.”