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Juliana Sohn’s ‘Sleep Portraits’: Finding Balance as Mother and Photographer

Juliana Sohn writes for TIME about her series Sleep Portraits, which documents her sons’ childhood and growth in a way that was satisfying for her as a mom and a photographer.

As a professional photographer, people always expected me to have amazing photos of my children when they were young. I did not. I made a decision when my first son was born that I wanted to be present, experiencing the moment with him—instead of observing his life from behind the lens, always on the lookout for a picture-perfect shot.

At the time, I used a 4×5 inch large-format camera, which is better suited for considered portraits, landscapes or still-lifes—not so much for photographing little beings constantly changing and moving. I stumbled through parenting for the first few years and I had another baby, so it took a while to get my bearings and work out how I could document my boys’ childhood and growth in a way that was satisfying both as a mom and a photographer. Capturing the boys while they slept enabled me to find that balance and gain back a little more of the control I wanted as a photographer. In their stillness during sleep, I could shoot and observe for hours without trying the boys patience, while still capturing their tenderness as children.

While I have favorites among the photos, it is in viewing them next to each other—as a series that documents the boys’ development, growth and change over time—that I feel the photos reveal the most.

Juliana Sohn‘s photographs have been published in Time, New York Magazine and Martha Stewart Living. The opening image from this selection of Sleep Portraits is featured in the October issue of Real Simple magazine.

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