Photos by Danielle Delph
We all wonder what our parents were like as kids. Were they fun? Were they wild or well-behaved? The class clown or the quiet introvert? Would we have been similar? Would we have gotten along?
Danielle Delph, an art director in Portland, Oregon, took those questions one step further. For a web-based project entitled “If I Had Known My Mother Back Then,” the 25-year-old digitally manipulated herself into her mother’s childhood photos. “I was scrolling through Instagram last May, and someone posted an old picture of her mother hanging out with friends for a Mother’s Day Throwback Thursday post,” Delph tells Yahoo Parenting. “I just thought, wouldn’t it be cool if someone could put herself in her mom’s photo?”
So Delph did just that. She reached out to her mother, Janis, who lives in Pensacola, Florida, for childhood photos, and gathered pictures from her own youth, as well. “I looked for images where it could look like we were interacting or connecting,” she says.
Even before she inserted herself into the photos, Delph says the collection of childhood pics made her think of her mother differently. “I would see these emotions on her face, and see a side of my mom I’m not usually privy to,” she says. “It was like, oh, mom doesn’t look super happy here, in some instances, and you ease up on your parents when you realize that, at some point, they probably went through the same range of emotions that you have.”
Once Delph put herself in her mom’s photos, she says she developed a new level of empathy for the woman who raised her. “Seeing myself with her helped me remember that she’s just a person, not only an authority figure,” Delph says. “You always have those ‘You don’t know what I’m going through!’ moments with parents, but that’s not true. You just didn’t see the first 30 years of their lives.”
Danielle and Janis, today. Photo courtesy of Danielle Delph.
Janis, with whom Delph says she is very close, loves the project, and calls it “our site,” Delph says. “She told me that looking at the pictures feels like déjà vu,” she says. “Like it actually happened.”
Delph is convinced that she and her mom would have been great friends had they grown up together. “I realized, we’re more similar than I might think,” she says. “I understand her world differently now that I’ve put myself in it.”