All products featured on Vogue are independently selected by our editors. However, we may earn affiliate commissions when you purchase items through our retail links.
In clear black and white we see a bedroom Clothes, wires and a bicycle were strewn about. A pair of legs emerged from the torn sheets. Below them, presumably, a teenager is sleeping. As a mother of seven, Peggy Levison Nolan understands adolescence, boredom and chaos. As a photographer, she captures it all intimately, delicately, and without judgment. In her new book Juggling Is Easy (TBW Books), Nolan invites us to her At home Sha’50s and showed us how her children lived. “I’m aware of the fact that they want privacy and they don’t get it,” Nolan said. “We’re on top of each other.” For a long time, Nolan slept on the couch while the kids shared the bedroom. “I always try to give my girls their own space.”
Nolan first picked up a camera in the 1982 years when her father gave her a Nikon, Someone sold it at his pawn shop. At the time, she was raising four sons and three daughters, all born in 1960 and 1967, the marriage was on and off in government subsidized housing in Miami. From the very beginning, Nolan felt that photography was innate—how to compose images, how to consider edges. She quickly became addicted, snapping thousands of photos of her children, of herself in mosh pits, jumping off bridges, and recovering from car accidents. Just like moms. “I’m very into teens,” Nolan told me. “They think they can live forever. The anxiety, the anger, the excitement, the future, the adventure…all of it, I see it all. They don’t hide.”
On a recent morning, I went to her Florida Visit Nolan at her Hollywood home, under the same roof where her six children used to live with her, sharing three small bedrooms. She recently built a darkroom in her backyard shed. It’s been much quieter these days. Over coffee and orange olive oil cake, I asked her what advice she would give parents now. (I have a young child and another on the way, and I might use it.) “Don’t separate them,” she says. “Don’t give kids their own room. Let them sleep together. They don’t need that kind of privacy. They need something else. They need each other to wake up, they need to fight over clothes, they need to share.” Decades ago, Noah Lan’s house is full of children and their partners and friends, and they make a living by it. You can see it in the picture.
Photo: Peggy Nolan
Nolan’s work documents the raw, authentic nature of being young, which means she often goes where her children don’t want her to go. “I got my nose pierced and it helped,” she said. “I can break into Lollapalooza and other places, and even if I’m old, they won’t bother me.” Nor is she a disciplined person. “I grew up knowing that if I was a jerk, they would never forget and they would never forgive me.” In one photo, her daughter Stella, no more than , pretending to be a bouncer for a bar. In another photo, her son Tommy peruses his brother’s Playboy collection. Through her writing, Nolan breaks with parenting conventions and embraces rebellion. But there are also images, like an adolescent death stare in the passenger seat or a backyard haircut, that are emblematic of what any mother would see. It’s normal for a child to pose for the camera but be reluctant.
I am in the stage of parenthood and I never tire of giving my daughter Take pictures, or look at pictures while she’s asleep. That sticky smile, that wobbly walk, those little shoes. But I wonder what happens when she learns her first swear words, starts texting for hours on end, or borrows my shoes without asking. What kind of mother would I be, what kind of amateur photographer?
Nolan isn’t particularly nostalgic. As she walks me through images from the past, she doesn’t look at them nostalgicly, but “sees them as works of art, as bits of history that I distance myself and curate.” “Becoming what they look and feel like”. Give them something she never had.
However, her ulterior motive for entering FIU was to use the darkroom to develop her photos. She ended up running the lab, taking classes, and running home to cook dinner for the family. Her youngest child was only three years old at the time. “It was really hard,” she recalls. “But I did. That’s probably why these are some of the best photos I can take. Because I know I’m on to something important.”
I can’t help but think of her new book’s Book title, Juggling Is Easy
. Yeah? One day, Nolan walked into the house after rushing home from get off work and noticed a whiff of citrus. There were limes all over the floor. Her husband had just taught himself to juggle. Their marriage was like that until they divorced when her youngest was eight; “he played with them and I raised them,” says Nolan. However, parenting is not a circus show. “If you have a lot of kids, you have incredible coping mechanisms to do a lot of things,” Nolan said. “Finding underwear for everyone in the morning is a mission.” At home, she’ll work late at night in the darkroom of the laundry room, flushing out photos in the trash.
Sitting in Nolan’s house is admiring a Living and breathing self-expression, she expresses something with her clothes, her food, her mug and her walls. The space is filled with eclectic finds over the years – a class photo of 1960 Here’s Pacific Telephone, there’s a life-size model of Robert Pattinson – but none is more important to her than the whole thing. “It’s about everything coming together, how they bounce off each other,” she said. There is a blackboard where her grandson Ender used to keep track of the number of lizards he saw in her backyard. (There are 62 them.) There is also a 1 The $ Accidentally bought a cardboard bill.
but you won’t find a picture of Nolan himself on the wall . Those, she keeps in protective bags in her cupboard. That is, until she recently decided to open them up and browse through thousands of black-and-white photos, quickly realizing she had something special on her hands. Her eldest son, Abner, encouraged her to take them to Paul Schiek, publisher of TBW Books. “Photographs are meant to be in books,” she said. “There is a connection between photographs. You have a roll of film in your camera. Even digitally, it’s the story of the day. It’s a connective tissue that you see yourself.” When Nolan was managing FIU’s photography lab, She always teaches a class as an adjunct professor. She started collecting photo albums to show her students. At the end of each semester, they have to make their own.
Nolan is at and she has brought all the books home. Now, they’re in the hundreds, neatly arranged, and span legends like Diane Arbus and lesser-known artists she calls “hipster” artists. “It made people want to take more pictures,” she told me as we flipped through the spiral-bound photo scrapbook. I imagine Nolan’s new book squeezed into a pile like this one, waiting to be pulled out and flipped through, sparking curiosity and intrigue. It might even inspire another overworked, juggling mother to grab a camera and film what she sees.