The colors in the photo are simply stunning. The vibrancy of the orange, how sheer on the mother and how thick and comforting on the child. They seem almost out of place until the same lines of orange are caught in the upper left on a skirt or sari hanging out to dry. The orange also seems an odd choice when paired with the purples of skirt underneath.
There’s more to this though. There always is.
This woman appears well off, her clothing isn’t frayed and there are bits of beadwork evident along the edges of her shawl, in a pattern on her skirt, even along the rim of her shoe. Yet the child with her, clearly with her seen gripping her shawl, appears half-naked, hair tussled in a way my own mother would never permit, “you look like a ragamuffin,” she’d say. So too the alleyway they’re walking down appears run down, although clean, large bits of plaster flaking away from the buildings, laundry left out to dry.
The juxtaposition is all quite striking.
The orange alone enough to draw the eye repeatedly.
The child’s jacket appears to be a fleece, warm and comforting on a chilly day, several sizes too large with the sleeves rolled up, the bottom sitting somewhere above the knee but below the seat. Exactly as my youngest’s jackets fit, handed down from his older brother. Despite this warmth above, the child wears nothing below, or at least nothing visible from behind. Beautiful bare toddler legs in sandals, a bracelet around the right ankle. No visible goose bumps, however, so clearly not uncomfortably attired.
My favorite part though, the way the adult and child are in step with one another, the way the child grips the adults shawl in a confident, claiming manner. I’m left to assume this is mother and child, that mother has something in her hands and is thus occupied, unable to hold hands. This gripping of clothing a reasonable alternative for them both, confirmation, yes, I am here.
I look at this picture, with it’s simple white matting and modern black metal frame, which doesn’t “go” in my home in any way, which stands out as an awkward choice, really, and I love it. I see motherhood and childhood and security and comfort and joy. I wonder if this is her first child, her last child, if what she’s holding in front of her out of my view is another baby or a sack of rice for dinner or a pregnant belly.
I didn’t choose this photo, but I would. It was gifted to me, and I’m grateful. I can look at all the separate elements in the photo and see nothing of note, nothing that would draw my attention or emotion a second time, until put together as it is. When looking at the photo as a whole, I see love.
To view all of Ivy Gordon’s incredible works, please visit her gallery and website.
This post was written as a thirty minute writing exercise, no editing, no stopping and was inspired from a writing prompt in Bryan Collins’ “Yes, You Can Write!” book available here.