In September 2010, when she was a sophomore in high school, I was anxious to make her part of the project. I had been working intermittently on MUM for a few years, and I was convinced she would be a great addition. I thought it would be simple, so I set up a time, packed my gear and went to her house.
My subjects in the series are shot in and around their homes and I had already decided where to photograph her. I imagined her inside her house, in what they call the round-room. This room consists of a smallish 70s curved dining area, with narrow aluminum framed floor-to-ceiling windows that hover over a kidney shaped pool. I set the lights, brought her in, and started shooting. But something wasn't working. Struggling to connect, I decided to change the shot and moved her to the back yard. There was a whitewashed brick wall with blue morning glories, an herb lined fence, and a pool. Endless possibilities, but it still wasn't working. My effort lasted a few hours until my gut told me the shot just wasn't there. I kept silent, said it was great and hoped my instinct was wrong.
I visited the edit many times to retrace my steps in an attempt to learn from it. I decided I was treating Julia differently from the other subjects because I already knew her. The pictures were fine but completely wrong for the series, and I concluded Julia simply couldn't be part of the project.
Over a year later, in January 2011, I changed my mind when she agreed to try again. When I arrived at her house, she was taking a nap. I had a new puppy that I wanted to show her, but I began to set up lights and prepare for the shot while she slept. When I finished lighting, I sat on the floor to play with my pup when the late afternoon winter light began to sweep through the doorway. At that moment, everything changed and I ran to wake her up. We played with the dog for a short time, but as I watched the light move across the floor, suddenly everything was in focus. The shot was there all along. I just had to wait for it.
- Nancy Newberry