What my daughter thinks of me

betty ming liu Relationships 31 Comments

What’s your mom like? My daughter answers that question today as our guest blogger. Taken together, her photo essay and artist’s statement create an honest, profound reflection — which is a nice way to say that I don’t come off too good….

We’ll start with a self-portrait of the photographer. Gabi snapped it over the winter, when she was still 15 and enrolled in a darkroom photography workshop. She was really excited about learning the lost art of using various lighting sources, developing her own film in the darkroom and then, printing her own pictures.  

During the course, each student had to come up with a final project. Her topic? Our relationship. That photo essay is the basis for the post below.  


<3  <3  <3  <3  <3  <3  <3  <3  <3  <3  <3  <3  <3 


Photo Essay: “Mommy & Me”


For the first half of my photography class, I had just been shooting portraits with no real idea of where I was going. Eventually, I buckled down and told myself that I had to come up with something, so I began to brainstorm ideas of what could translate well into my photos.

At first, I decided that I was going to take pictures of people I knew really well, regarding something I don’t know about them, and pictures of people I don’t know well, regarding the little I do know about them.

It was a huge struggle for me to find things I didn’t know about people I’m close to, which is what lead me to the project I’m focusing on now.

One Saturday night I was stuck at home, and decided to experiment with taking pictures of my mom. I ended up using a couple rolls of film, trying different lighting sources, and creating double exposures. I had no idea how it would turn out, but once I started making prints, I realized that this is something I really appreciate and care about. After all, it is my own mother!

There were photos that expressed anger, frustration, exuberance… all emotions that at some point or another, we have felt towards each other. So I scrapped my first idea, and decided to focus on capturing all sides of my relationship with my mom, through photography.

Although my mom and I do get along, and can be happy when we’re together, we spend a lot of time furious with each other.

I think any average mother-daughter relationship, especially during high school, has its many different sides. My pictures, which are all shots of my mother, express different emotions that we have felt towards each other, at some point or another.


In this picture, she looks extremely horrified. Perhaps because of something I’ve done, a bad grade on a test, or a messy room?


In this picture, her eyes are closed. She looks worn out; as if she is tired of fighting with me and is completely and utterly DONE.


The triple exposure expresses insanity, that I have probably driven her to at certain times.

In this photo, the angle is from below. It is pointing up at her face and the typical “mom” look that no child wants to get; it’s the “you better not do that, you know better” look.


The emotion in the photo with her fingers on her head comes through the two muscles in her neck – they are protruding, showing that she is tense about something.

The different angles in the placement of the head can represent her struggle to make up her mind about something; most likely an important decision regarding what she wants me to do, or whether she wants to let me do something or not.


My mother, goofing off.

This is my mom, hiding from something she doesn't want me to be doing.

<3  <3  <3  <3  <3  <3  <3  <3  <3  <3  <3  <3  <3 

If you’d like to see how different mother and daughter can be in our approach to a photo essay about each other, check out this post: How to become a model in Seventeen magazine like my daughter. Lots of glam photos of my baby.  :)


 <3  <3  <3  <3  <3  <3  <3  <3  <3  <3  <3  <3  <3 


Comments 31

  1. Betty —
    This project is a tribute — and you both should be really, really proud of each other. Gabi has an amazing mother, and I think she’s beginning to be able to articulate that, with her writing and her pix. And you have a fearless daughter. I’ve always been grateful for the fact that my mom and I could fight endlessly and yet still love each other furiously. She always got and accepted me, even though I didn’t always … until very late in life … get and accept her. You guys are way ahead of the curve.

  2. Betty! Go with Ivan’s idea. I love angst on paper! Great reading. I don’t know what came over me with such a short post…will have to make up for it another week. Just kidding! Well, if anyone ever taught me about saying what I needed to w/o over saying it, that was you. Ahh, remember it like it was yesterday, Spring ’09…

    This time around, Gabi’s pics did all the writing. She said what I would have taken 3 pages to beat around the bush with.

    Again, this post struck a chord with so many of us. Another Happy Tursday.

  3. Oh my gosh. So honest and brave. I agree with everything that everyone said . The photos represent every side of you that she loves. Too often I am the one taking the photos and I edit out stuff that I don’t want to see. It would be a challenger for everyone to post everything, uncensored because the essence of you is in everything and not just what the best photos show. I admit that I am not there yet. I applaud you and your daughter for taking this step! :)

  4. Post

    ahhhh, isn’t blogging beautiful? i am loving this conversation. really helpful to get feedback — and to let things all hang out. elizabeth, fingers crossed….i hope gabs and i stay open to each other through the years. and okay, skye, i will stay open to ivan’s idea! jackie, i couldn’t post photos like this to often. but once in a while, this is good for me. in the old days, we used to talk about preserving kodak moments. these days, i still cling to photoshopped moments!

  5. Post

    aw, thanks! btw, i saw my shrink today and he had a comment about this post. he said something about how this post showed that i was a good mother. he said posting this showed that i could love my daughter no matter what she feels about me. when he said that, i added that the photo essay showed that gabs could, in turn, love me no matter what SHE felt about ME. so, fingers crossed. i hope gabi and i can spend the rest of our lives being true to each other. :)

  6. Pingback: Parents like Amy Chua are the reason why Asian-Americans like me are in therapy

  7. Hi, Betty:
    Three cheers for a real relationship (as shown by Gabi’s photo essay and your reaction). Reminds me of TV’s “Gilmore Girls.” You are both lucky. Gerry

  8. I agree with Gerry! I loved the relationship on ”Gilmore Girls.” Besides, those were 2 characters who could talk as much as I do!

  9. Post

    i missed the whole “gilmore girls” phenom. but if the mother-daughter relationship conversations in the show were talky, that’s great. because sometimes, it can really, really be hard to keep the dialogue going. but we try. :-)

  10. Thank you so much to everyone who took the time to look at my photos and read my artist statement! First of all, I’d like to start by saying that when I did this project, I had no intention of making my mom look bad. (When I made the first prints, she looked a little shocked at the way they came out, and I wasn’t sure whether or not to take her reaction offensively.) I thought for a while that since she was not the one taking the pictures, she simply had no previous notions about what her face that was posed into different expressions directed to her by her daughter, would look like on paper. And then once once this blog post had been up for a few days, I thought a little differently because of the different feedback I got. As my mom stated, “people either loved it or hated it.” I was actually surprised with myself that I wasn’t offended that people hated my artwork; we learned in class that photography has a lot to do with a matter of opinion and different perspectives. My mom said that a few of the people who weren’t in favor of the post didn’t like it/were scared of it because they don’t think this is the way my mom naturally looks. In my own, possibly naiive opinion, the way a person appears changes based on who you are. If my mom shot one of these looks to a student in class, or to a friend at lunch, it is easy to see how that would be shocking. But to me, it’s no big deal because I see my mom more times and in more ways than anybody else does because I live with her, hence the title “Mommy & Me.”

    My mom and I both also know that even when we fight, and these kinds of looks come out of her (and different looks from me as well) we’ll always still love each other, as opposed to if this happened with someone she or I don’t know as well, which could leave sour reputations. So when I realized that a lot of this is based on a matter of how different people see different people, I took a step back and thought about her shocked reaction once more. It wasn’t because she disliked my photos, but probably because what she looks like in the photos is different than even she, herself, sees herself (or wants to see herself.) Which, again, is not a bad thing; it is just different because what a mother and daughter share is different than any other relationship. I agree with what so many of you said about this project showing that I truly love my mom. The final product honestly showed me a lot about our relationship – much more than what even the creation process showed. And even though our relationship can get sticky at times, I’ll always love her no matter what!

    Also, on a side note, it’s surprisingly kind of cool to see my own stuff on my mom’s blog. When she first started blogging, I had absolutely no interest in being a part of it, because I was going through those awkward pre-teen/early-teen years where having anything to do with my parents was an utter disgrace. But as I’m growing out of that phase, it’s nice to read about what an important part I am in my mom’s life, and it’s also really nice to share back about what an important part of my life she is as well. Thanks for sharing Mommy, and thanks to the supporters! :)

  11. Post

    that’s my girl! thanks for posting a comment, babe. it’s interesting to read how you feel about seeing your work online. and it’s been interesting for ME to see your work online. it helped me to see our relationship from your perspective, which isn’t always pretty. but, somebody’s gotta be the mom, right? i also think that since this post, i have been yelling less. and i am excited to share blogging with you. this is why i do it. the whole experience of being in the moment is precious. xoxox

    p.s. — if you all have more thoughts on this, please jump right on in. i think it’s been really good for gabs to have the real-life experience of public feedback. people don’t have to love your work; they just have to be interested in it. and even better if they can respect it. thanks to you all for being part of our family village. :)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *