An Ordinary Life
Unstyled and unaffected, these spontaneous images from a regular routine at home record one family’s experience at its most authentic
A sunlit breakfast of bagels and cereal, complete with a few scraps sneaked to the dog. A vintage chandelier draped with dress-up clothes in a playroom, or a daredevil balancing act on a staircase banister. For four years, photographer Melanie Acevedo (@melanieacevedophoto) has been chronicling the everyday moments of her children, Violet (now 13) and Rockwell (now eight) in a personal project titled Another 52 Weeks. Here, she shares the motivation behind her most personal assignment, as well as what she’s learned along the way.
“I’d always taken pictures of my children, but I’d never considered them to be anything more than family snapshots anyone would take. My old agent found a box of the old photographs and said, ‘Why are we not showing these?’ That sparked an idea. I decided to give myself an assignment to shoot my kids every week for a year. I’d just read the Joan Didion book The Year of Magical Thinking and realized how fleeting each moment is with the people you love. I started asking myself, Will they remember how I saw them? No. But if I kept doing this, they would. It’s one of the greatest gifts I can give my kids—a visual diary of our life together. I didn’t have to stop, set up a shot, think about it; I just had to feel it. It didn’t have anything to do with the usual part of my life— completing an assignment for another person’s agenda.
“At first I don’t think my kids were very aware of it at all. They were used to seeing mommy with a camera. Now they’re much more aware; they know that I put things up on a blog. They’re interested in [the project]. Sometimes they get mad and stop me if they’re not in the mood. As for my husband, he doesn’t mind. Sometimes he’ll walk away. Because the minute you pick up a camera and start to document things, it disrupts the realness of the moment, and Richard used to be really against me doing that. On vacation, he would say, ‘You’re not working now, stop it.’ But he supports me completely. And since the project has grown and gotten more important to the whole family, he understands how powerful it is as a gift to the children.
“Comfort is the most important factor in the way I choose to live and the things I have in my house. We spend a lot of time in the dining room, and a big communal table is something I’ve had in all my homes. I got this one 20 years ago at an antiques store on the Jersey Shore. It was my office table for a long time; it’s been all sorts of different colors. We also have a daybed in the dining room, and Violet likes to lie there and read.
“The house is 100 years old. It used to be a tiny bungalow that was slowly added onto, room by room. When we bought it, the kitchen consisted of two rooms with a brick wall and rotted-out cabinets. We decided to make it simple and graphic. So we just got IKEA cabinetry and metro shelving and some nice appliances, including the Fisher & Paykel industrial stove. The floor was linoleum; we put in the black-and-white tile. Everyone told us to get rid of the little window above the sink, but I love how funky it is.
“My kids are pretty interested in their own rooms. Rocky likes to draw on the walls, so he has chalkboard paint. Violet loves stuffed animals. At the cusp of young womanhood, she’s still a little girl at heart; before she goes to bed, she places them all around her in a certain way so she feels comfortable. Her room has Serena & Lily beanbags, which are childlike but adult and chic at the same time. And I gave her a John Derian glass table that used to be in my bedroom so she has a desk to do her homework.
“We’re big cuddlers. We’ve had our kids in bed with us since they were babies. After a hard day, that’s where we’ll talk and read and watch movies together. When they wake up, they come and get into bed with us; Rocky eats his oatmeal and fruit there every morning. We have a king bed, with a down comforter from IKEA and a whole mix of linens—some are from Restoration Hardware, some from Eileen Fisher.
“There are occasions every day that I’m drawn to, and they’re always the most ordinary. We sleep, we eat, we relax. Those are the moments I find the most interesting; that’s when my kids are their most real selves.”