Project Detail: "Step-me"


LuganoPhotoDays 2017




Nora Kabli Kabli


Project Info



I am 31 and no kids till last November.

In fact, it started five years ago when I got in touch with my first love. The one you idealize and glorify for the rest of your life. Social networks helped me to find him again. I was still having my diary full of stories and photos of him. I was quite excited to see how was his life like. It turned out to be really different from mine. He was living in Brittany; I was living in London. I was into clubbing and saving money to travel; he was married, owning a house as well as a happy dad. He told me how great it was to be a dad, I told him how great it was to be travelling the world. I was telling him the feeling it was to see the smiles on the faces of the kids in Nepal or Thailand. He was telling me: ‘You, you have no idea about the power of love for your own child.’ What could I say? Nothing. I just deeply felt what he was saying. It was ‘him’, his voice over the phone! I had not seen him in years but I remember well to have told him: ‘I don’t know your daughter yet but I already love her because she is yours’.

Life went on for years before we met again.

Last November, we met again. Magic happened and it all started, all over again. We were living a fairy tale. A few months later, he introduced me to his two daughters: Stella, the oldest and Mia, the youngest.

At the beginning, I was a bit reluctant. Deep inside I was scared. I didn’t really know how to behave so I asked some advice around me to people who were dealing with the same situation. It was awkward. It was hard for me. My parents are still together. I didn’t know what was going through their children’s mind. I felt guilty of being there with their dad without being their mum. I never imagined, in my life to be one day a ‘Step-mum’. In fact I am not one.

It all starts here.

Who am I for them? I don’t want them to identify me with the ‘Step-mother’ who is in the fairy tales. I don’t want them to believe I am a witch. I am their daddy’s old friend, girlfriend but not only… What I do best is being me. Therefore, I want to be ‘me’ with them. Myself. I want them to step towards me. ‘Step-me’ is for ‘Step-mum’ who I am not. I often feel guilty. My partner tells me, please don’t. He says: ‘you know in their school, most of the kids have divorced parents.’ Perhaps, but still, I am sad. I imagine myself to have a ‘step-mum’ and I can’t.

Time passes. Months.

Mia flies into my arms now when she sees me and shouts ‘Noraaaa’ with a smile bigger than her. I love it! Apart from my mum, I have never seen anyone as happy as her to see me. Even not her dad! Stella, who was more reserved changed so much. She now listens to me and asks me about fifty questions per day. When I am not in the room, she looks for me. She is very mature for her age and I admire her for being really protective towards her little daughter and responsible for her.

These photos were taken during the first holidays we spent together, the four of us. You won’t see their faces as I would need their mother’s permission to publish it and so far, I don’t think she appreciates me much. It does not matter. This is not important for what I want to show. I had the idea of those photos when being with them.

When I see them with their dad, speak to each other or when I hear them talk after the shower it relaxes me. It brings me peace. It gives me a break from my adulthood. I can laugh with them, sing and dance in the kitchen. Of course, there are the hard times but hard times are not as strong as the ‘magic’ ones.

When I see them, I see a bit of their dad and a bit of their mum. They are not mine but they are kids. They are beautifully innocent from life. They are fragile but already so brave to say so many times goodbye to their mum and dad.

Again, I am sad.

But they are here, they make me smile and laugh. They make me forget about the unnecessary. They bring me joy.

They remind me of the earth when they play with it. They remind me of the ocean when I see their infinite love for their father. They remind me of the air I breathe, when they run around us.

To me they are like poetry.