Interview: Heather Gallagher and The Circle Austin

Heather Gallagher is an award-winning photojournalist inspired by the journeys of families and motherhood, including her own. The artist is also the co-founder of The Circle Austin, an organization committed to supporting diverse female entrepreneurship. We had the opportunity to chat with Heather about her perspectives on motherhood, family, professional pursuits, and on how these roles influence each other. 

How do you define yourself? What roles are the most important to you?

I identify as a Chinese American, CODA (Child of Deaf Adult), female photographer, mother, and partner.

I would say that my role as a partner is the most important as this is not limited to my marriage. I am incredibly loyal and those that I keep close to my heart I consider partners as well. This includes my son, family, and photography, which is an entity unto itself.

What inspired you to focus your photography on families and pregnant women?

I started photographing myself and my family when I was a young girl, around 9 or 10 years old. It was a means of self-exploration, a way to try to see my surroundings the way others might, as a voyeur. This theme has continued into my current practice as I feel that the more access we as a society are given to others, the more access we are given to ourselves. As nuanced and diverse individuals and families are, we are all more alike than we think, and I am passionate about normalizing the human experience in all its varieties.

What led you to find The Circle?

I co-founded the Circle in 2017 with two friends who are also working mothers in complimentary but different industries. We wanted to create a safe space where we could resource share, bounce business ideas off each other and get honest feedback, collaborate and get inspiration. What was originally something we created just for ourselves quickly and organically evolved into a thriving network of 25 incredibly unique and talented women.

What have you learned about women and mothers through your work?

It’s incredible how many lives we can live in just one lifetime, which is to say that we carry so much in our hearts and souls. With the right support, we can do anything, but without the right support (giving and receiving), we do a great disservice to ourselves and others.

What is your advice to moms who strive to have another role outside their motherhood and family?

You can have a family that fits into your lifestyle! You don’t have to conform to what you think parenthood or your work life is supposed to look like. My husband and I both own our own businesses which often means that we bring our son to work with us. He sees us in action and our respective clients love his presence. He sees our constant passion to maintain our own lives and businesses yet he is also involved. He knows how much we love him and how much we love what we do and that makes me so proud.

What is something that society needs to recognize about mothers?

Our bodies, our experiences, our choices, and our children are sacred. We don’t need judgment from anyone. We need more representation, access, options and support in all areas of life.

What impact would you want your children to have in the world if any? How do you instill these values in them?

I am acutely aware that my son, while part Chinese in heritage, is a blonde, blue-eyed, white male in America. He was born into historical and societal privilege. It is me and my husband's goal for him to use his inherent privilege for good. To be an ally to the underrepresented, to learn to listen with his heart, make informed choices, and always be a safe space for all individuals. We instill these values in him by modeling this behavior every day. By practicing what we preach, by living a life of service and nondiscrimination and by always being honest.

How do you stay sane among all your responsibilities and roles? Are there any quotes or mantras you say to yourself?

This might sound macabre but when I’m feeling overwhelmed, I think to myself “we’re all gonna die one day”. One might end this thought with “so screw it!” haha, but for me, it’s a way to summon more motivation to push forward with the task at hand because it’s a reminder that life is fleeting and I want to leave this earth better than I found it.

What items do you always carry with you?

My cell, chapstick, a snack (cause, kids), and a tampon (cause I never know what day it is!).

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