If I Had Known My Mother Back Then…

What happens when a daughter edits herself into her mom's old photos

What if you had grown up with your parents — if you’d been best friends in middle school or college roommates? That’s the conceit behind Danielle Delph’s photography project, If I Had Known My Mother Back Then.

“As we get older, we start to see similarities and we become friends with our parents,” Delph says. To visualize what such a friendship might have looked like in her case, the 25-year-old art director from Portland, Ore. edited herself into her mom’s photos from the past.

(MORE: A Cool Photo Project: Young and Old Swap Clothes)

After seeing herself and her mom Photoshopped side-by-side at a homecoming dance and taking a stroll together on a sunny afternoon, Delph feels sure her hunch was right: they would have been pals.

While sifting through her mom’s photos for this project, Delph inferred that photography takes on different meanings for generations.

“My mom’s generation takes photos for a specific moment, like a graduation, a recital or something that is really precious at the time,” Delph says. “[My generation] takes photos of everything, like our lunch or whatever else that is really not important. I have an appreciation for my mom’s generation of photos because they capture stuff that really matters.”

From peeking into her mother’s past, she also realized the obvious, but often overlooked, fact that parents did have lives before they had children.

“We don’t realize that they were kids, they were teenagers, they were in college,” says Delph. “We don’t see that side of them, so it was really interesting to go back and dig through her life and see that she went through the same things I went through.”

(MORE: Odd Similarities Between Young and Old Relatives)

That’s the message Delph wants people to take away from her project: “I hope they can have a better understanding of themselves and see a side of their parents that they’ve never seen before, and think, ‘We aren’t far off from each other.’”

Mother left, daughter right

“I felt like it was one of those moments when you’re a kid and you’re waiting around, making do with what you have to play with, like coloring on a napkin.”

Mother left, daughter right
“It feels like we had just finished a ballet recital.”

Mother left, daughter right

“It looks like a Sunday afternoon at a small fair where we were just being silly.”

Daughter left, mother right
“This image feels like a homecoming dance, like right before you leave to go to the dance.”

Daughter left, mother right

“It feels like we’re just friends hanging out on a Friday night.”

Daughter left, mother right
“This image is just two friends walking, maybe talking about school or laughing at something.”


By Jill Yanish
Jill was formerly the associate editor for Next Avenue.  She earned a bachelor’s degree in communication from the College of Saint Benedict/Saint John’s University and has written for various Twin Cities publications.

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