Artist Interview: Shira Yudkoff

Beyond the Gallery

Shira Yudkoff is one of the four artists featured in the PL130 Gallery's photography show Moms With LensesShe is a freelance photographer specializing in multimedia and documentary photography. Her photos featured in this show capture her family's home life during the pandemic. 

Q: What sparked your interest in photography? 
A: My dad taught me how to use his 35mm camera when I was in middle school. We went on a walk in the Wissahickon, where he explained the concepts of depth of field and aperture by focusing on a bunch of red berries against the blue sky, and I was hooked. 

Q: How has the experience of motherhood informed or transformed your work as a photographer (and changed your life in general)?
A: Motherhood has made me more sensitive. I cry when I’m happy and I’m interested in photographing inanimate objects – like trees and toys – in a way that did not compel me before seeing things through my kids perspective.

Q: What is it like to have your children as your subjects? How is that different from other photography you’ve done in the past?
A: It’s fun! And it’s intimate. I’ve always liked photographing strangers as a way of connecting to new people and photographing my kids has also given me a new connection and appreciation for the way they play and how they express their feelings.  

Photography is a lot like play. It’s imaginative, fluid and offers a new way of seeing. 

Q: Has covid affected your family unit? And has it influenced your work?
A: Covid has been challenging. We’ve been lucky, even when we had covid, we were not very sick but periods of isolating and fear have been stressful over the years. 

It’s also meant a lot of togetherness. In the early days my work was all cancelled and my partner, Pete, worked from home. We had 3 meals a day together as a family. We did virtual “Mimi school” every day with my devoted mother-in-law and we learned to further appreciate being outside and hiking every possible trail within 30 minutes of Philadelphia. 

My family was the only thing available to photograph but I’m grateful for this opportunity. COVID gave me a deeper appreciation for our family, for grandparents, and for the space to capture a sometimes stressful and tedious situation with love, humor and artistry.

Q: Your photos seem to capture a sense of youthful joy, exploration, and wonder. Can you elaborate on that? What are some other qualities you wish to convey with your images? 
A: In April, 2020 we created a beach in our apartment by hanging a blue photo backdrop over the back of our couch. My twins (then almost 3) spent hours playing at the beach – creating fish, drinking smoothies, and jumping into the ocean. I thought they were geniuses and two plus years later they still talk about “the beach in the city house.”

Their ability to adapt and to live in their imaginations inspires me. I hope my photos draw attention to the beauty of everyday moments and the inner, creative world of children. 

Visit Shira's website to see more of her work and follow her on Instagram @shirayudkoff

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