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In the wide world of parenting, there are several topics up for debate — starting with the best way to feed a baby or teach them how to sleep and progressing from there. But there’s one thing that most of us agree on — kids grow up way too fast.
If there was one thing I heard over and over again when my first son was born, it was that he would be an adult in the blink of an eye. Now that he is 3, I finally understand what everyone was always talking about.
The photography book Stop Here. This Is the Place. is a collaborative effort between writer Susan Conley and photographer Winky Lewis, two friends and neighbors raising their children together in the picturesque city of Portland, Maine, that beautifully illustrates this bittersweet reality.
Because motherhood constantly felt like a race, the women decided to embark on a creative journey together to slow things down a little. Each week for an entire year, Lewis would send Conley a photograph from their world — their children, the street they lived on, or nature that surrounded them. The women wouldn’t discuss the image, even during their multiple daily interactions, and at the end of the week, Conley would send a tiny story back about the photograph.
The result is a captivating and eerily nostalgic time capsule of photos and prose, which forces us to not only examine the meaning of youth in terms of our children, but reminds us what it was like to be a child ourselves.
Visually we witness Lewis and Conley’s children’s limbs grow longer and see their features slightly change throughout the year, getting to experience each season with them — at the beach or on the rope swing in the summer, or bundled up in their classrooms during winter, riding skateboards around with their friends, climbing stop signs and jumping on beds.
Each photo, whether black and white or vibrant in color, is absolutely haunting in the sense that there is some sort of universal nostalgia — the way the sun is shining on the water, how the shadow of a child’s hand falls on the doorknob, or the way the over-loved piggy stuffed animal slumps raggedly on his knee.
Some of the prose is perfectly paired to the photo, while other week’s Conley took a more abstract approach.
Week 27, which features a photo of a girl blended with a deer, reads:
“Some night I got to lie in her bed and watch my mother
choose a dress from her closet, then brush her long hair.
She hardly ever wore perfume except those nights
when her friends came over. I knew her body
as if it was my own. And it made me feel so good
to know where I came from.”
While writing the prose, Conley explains she was taken back in time and teleported back to her own childhood, and able to report back on what she learned there. In a way, the book became a celebration of a child’s imagination.
“We tend to forget how much a child knows. How much they imagine. How mysterious and layered their ways of thinking are,” she told Babble.
“In slowing down time and living inside Winky’s photos, I got to be a child again and I got to experience their wild imaginations again, and that was exciting and I think it’s made me a better parent.”
“For me that is what the book is, a bit of an escape, to places I always feel better for having visited,” adds Lewis.
“Our days are mostly too busy and we’re racing too much, and I think these little marriages of photos and words can just slow things down for a second and maybe remind us to take it all in for a second. I find it really clicks in when your first child is about 9 or 10. It’s just moving way too fast — the girl catching the frisbee on the last spread is so different from the one on week one.”
Both women hope that their book will inspire other parents to slow down and enjoy every moment in all of its glory.
“We all need to stop for a second and look around, take it in, and really appreciate what we’ve got,” Lewis adds.
This is the place, after all.More On