Nanny transforms family moments into art

“Home Away From Home” photography exhibition to be displayed at Cedar House Gallery

Robin Elise Maaya, Savannah College of Art and Design student, captures the beauty, joy and whimsical nature of twins through photographing sisters Ava and Ruby. “Home Away From Home” is a photography exhibition that documents the family she has been a respite care nanny for since fall 2019.

“Home Away From Home” is a photo exhibition of a family that lives in harmony with a special needs child. Ruby has cerebral palsy and non-verbal autism, which limits her cognitive awareness and makes her unable to care for herself.

“When I first began photographing the Pendergrass family, I was doing so with the intention of showing the ‘normal-ness’ of their lives and attempting to elevate them to an ethereal realm,” Maaya said.

“I soon realized that this would be a false representation of them. Their family is absolutely not perfect nor ethereal, but instead unique and chaotic, in the very best way.” -Robin Elise Maaya

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Maaya credits her photojournalist approach to SCAD teacher and photographer, Jaclyn Cori Norman. Each exhibit started as a class project with Norman but became much more than that in the photographic process. Maaya reflects on her past exhibits “Girls Ward: Left” in 2019, “Moulting” in 2019, and her upcoming show “Home Away From Home” in 2021.

“Everything I have done has been under her [Norman’s] direction,” Maaya said. “I wouldn’t be the artist, photographer, student, I am without her.”

Photos by Robin Elise Maaya
“Home Away from Home” took a different approach to the project than when she started. The nature of the ten sets of twins shifted, inspired by the unconventional free-spiritedness of the Pendergrass Family, which set an entirely different tone for the photo direction.

“I remember shooting, and I thought, ‘I don’t know if these photos are going to fit the rest of them. I might not be able to use them in the project,’” Maaya said. “And then, when I saw the final images and I put them all together, I realized that the other pictures didn’t fit these.”

Maaya remembers buying her 4x5 camera from the late SCAD professor Tom Fischer’s widow, Sharon. Christine “Chrissy” Pendergras, photographer and mother of Ruby and Ava, learned to shoot on the same camera that Maaya is now using to document Chrissy’s children 20 years later.

Photos by Robin Elise Maaya
“It’s more than just a job now; this is my family, and that’s why it’s called “Home Away From Home,” because that is exactly what it is,” Maaya said. ”This is my second home, if not my first home above anything else. They have become a pivotal piece of my time in Savannah.”

Cedar House Gallery will be hosting an opening reception for Robin Elisa Maaya’s senior showcase “Home Away From Home” April 30, from 6-9 p.m. with live music from Greta Schroeder. The exhibition will be on view April 30 through May 2 with an artist talk on May 1 at 2 p.m.

About The Author

Nicole Youngblut

Nicole Youngblut is a contributing writer for Connect Savannah, where she covers the local art and events scene. As a graduate of The Fashion Institute of Technology, she spent many years in New York City as a fashion stylist and promoter. Her passion for biographies, entertainment and the arts is the perfect...
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