Not your typical childhood photos

Story highlights

  • In her photo book "The Home Stage," Jessica Todd Harper explores parenting and childhood
  • She combines naturally occurring moments with carefully planned compositions

(CNN)Pablo Picasso once asked: "Are we to paint what's on the face, what's inside the face or what's behind it?" Jessica Todd Harper's photo book "The Home Stage" does all three simultaneously.

"The Home Stage" contains intimate, psychological portraits that Harper has created of herself, her family and friends, and their children. The book weaves in some photos of other people's families as well, and includes writing by Alain De Botton and Alison Nordstrom.
Using her camera like a paintbrush to stroke the canvas that is her environment, Harper explores the experiences of parenting and childhood.
    As a mother to twin sons and a daughter, her photos contain a wide range of raw emotion, ranging from comfort and conflict to sleepiness and satisfaction.
    Harper's first photo book, "Interior Exposure," focused on the early years of her marriage and adult family life. She says her latest book is like a natural segue, as "The Home Stage" includes many photos of children.
    Photographer Jessica Todd Harper
    The title -- "The Home Stage" -- has more than one particular meaning or reference.
    "One is to convey that stage in life when you're anchored to the home with young children," Harper said. "It also references how the home is the first stage in which children learn how to live in every situation. In my particular pictures, many of them have a stage-like quality. There's reference to tableau vivant of the past, these constructed images."
    Harper's mother was a big fan of the arts, and she would take young Harper and her sister to local art museums where they would copy paintings by hand, progressing from crayons to charcoal and, eventually, to pastels.
    "I wanted to be just like Mary Cassatt and John Singer Sargent; those were the artists that I would copy a lot as a child," she said. "I think those images got very much stuck into my deep psyche."
    She emphasizes that her photos are not the everyday snapshots that many parents post on Facebook -- the photos of children at various stages in their lives, attending birthday parties or riding tricycles.