Son of a (Badass) Bitch

A photographer captures his most complex subject yet: his mother

At Fashion Unfiltered, we’ve discussed the complex relationship between mother and daughter at length. In honor of Mother’s Day this year, we tasked photographer Chris Sutton—known for his work in Vogue Italia, V, i-D, and here at FU—to capture a subject equally as fierce as an Alaïa gown: his mum. Sutton, who was raised in Northern Ireland by a “matriarchy of insanely strong women, a tribe of sorts,” explained that photographing his mother presented a significant challenge, one that was loaded with meaning. “How do you un-see a face you know better than any other? How do you present the most private, precious soul [in your life] to the public without giving too much away?” he said. “My approach was not to get in my own way and overthink, but just to capture what was there.”

As his mother was readying herself for an evening out—a rather intimate event that many of us witnessed as children (I myself can still remember the pungent smell of my mother’s Clinique Aromatics Elixir perfume)—Sutton set up shop. “It was hard to get her to stop talking long enough to get an image, so you’ll see a lady who’s probably recounting one of her many stories while I’m trying desperately to get a clean shot!” he laughed. “The bottom line is that she’s never quite gotten to the bottom line. In the end, the end keeps moving farther and farther away, so you just have to jump on board with her personality and you’ll end up wherever she chooses to take you.” As Toni Morrison once said, “Grown don’t mean nothing to a mother. A child is a child. They get bigger, older, but grown. In my heart it don’t mean a thing.”

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