BAFTA-nominated founder of Eye Mama Project Karni Arieli harnesses the lessons learned from being a mother of two in her work and introduces a new way of looking at motherhood: the mama gaze.
As a way to challenge the ubiquitous ‘male gaze,’ she founded the Instagram channel “Eye Mama Project” which celebrates and shares the complexities in mothers’ experiences through art.
IMAGO spoke to her about the project and the importance behind shifting narratives surrounding motherhood.
“The male gaze…We’ve been there done that. I’ve been fed it all my life. It’s in the air. But the female gaze is newer, more fresh and I can identify more…Then, mama gaze is just ‘pow!!’ It’s a reflection of self, of care, humanity and home. It’s the narrative I was missing.”
First of all thank you for your time to interview with us. Can you tell us a bit about yourself, your career, and your draw towards the subject of motherhood?
I think the Eye Mama Project sits on the intersection of my motherhood and my work and art identity. The juggle, and how challenging but also nourishing it can be. In the pandemic, I felt a need to share more truths about home and motherhood. I was drawn to this personal portfolio of mama life. Powerful, true and also hard. Heartbreaking… Full of love and full of contradictions.
So I started collecting the mama gaze. Mama life by photographer mamas. Worldwide and onto the instagram platform, and it became a community and a place to share this narrative of care home and motherhood.
The project focuses on the female narrative in a male gaze dominated world. Do you think this narrative will become a dominant one in the near future?
It has to. The male gaze…We’ve been there done that. I’ve been fed it all my life. It’s in the air. But the female gaze is newer, more fresh and I can identify more…Then mama gaze is just ‘pow!!’ It’s a reflection of self, of care, humanity and home. It’s the narrative I was missing. So I had to collect it but in my own way. With beauty and truth. The undercurrent and the overlooked; the feeling of motherhood…Mama gaze isn’t for mamas, it’s for every human who cares about care and humanity.
How has your life been shaped during the lockdown and from the start of this project?
The juggle was real, but also in flight or fight mode, the priorities come through strongly.
I wanted to make something meaningful and I didn’t have time to be scared. But making a project on mama-hood sometimes contradicts your actual motherhood. They both take up time and focus and love. It’s definitely a third baby.
How has the project developed and changed since its starting point?
After a year and a half on Instagram as a visual collective and community, it’s now becoming a book, archive exhibition and more. Instagram was great to start it and collect the artists and body of work – We have 40k submissions from 50 countries or so.
But with censorship and online culture, I also wanted to make an actual book, a document for history. And to hold, touch, look at and read it. To have by your bed. It’s time now, but I also love the connections I made online. I treasure them – the eye-mamas are my psychic family.
What is next for the Eye Mama Project?
First we have an open call “Eye Mama Project the book” on Picter, open to submission for all photographers who identify as mamas. It is very inclusive and broad. It includes and welcomes non binary and trans mamas and all narratives including IVF (In Vitro Fertilization), abortion, adoption and so on.
We have started work on the archive TV documentary development and exhibitions, talks and more – due summer 2023.
Mama gaze matters. We cannot empower the invisible.