The 'artist’s mother' is one of the oldest subjects in the history of art. To capture one’s mother is a tender and sensitive act. It can be curious, cautious, loving, particularly flattering or unflinchingly honest. The proximity and intimacy to a mother as model is unique to all others, and to pose for your child is an act of maternal love.
Countless great artists have made portraits of their mothers, immortalising them in film, paint and words across the centuries. Andy Warhol’s stippled and swirling pop art impressions of his mother Julia remain a highlight of his oeuvre. David Hockney made an iconic mosaic of photographs, shifting and arranging pictures together in the simply titled piece "My Mother". And one of Pablo Picasso’s most expressive portrayals is of his mum in pastel profile. "I want my parents to live forever," said the late, great American photographer Larry Sultan, and indeed he spent his life photographing his parents, ensuring that, in some ways, they did.
Charlie Engman has been photographing and filming his mother, Kathleen McCain, for a decade, in what began as a very casual, organic process of documenting her in their everyday life. Over time, that morphed into getting her to try on designer clothes after fashion shoots, and then further into her getting dolled up and taking on characters in front of his lens. As his photography career took off, Engman began shooting for the likes of Vivienne Westwood, Vogue and Stella McCartney, but his muse always remained his mother, and after time she slipped into his commissioned work too.