Twice a month our Your Shot community runs a photo assignment with a topic chosen by a guest editor. Our most recent assignment, Mother and Child, was imagined and curated by National Geographic contributing photographer Stephanie Sinclair, who’s known for her documentary work focusing on sensitive issues facing women and girls around the world.
For this set of Your Shot images, I wanted to visualize something visceral rather than literal. I began with this quote:
“[A] mother is one to whom you hurry when you are troubled.” —Emily Dickinson
Given the global reach of Your Shot, I wondered how the community might capture this idea visually.
As I looked through the images, intimacy, love, and strength were just a handful of the emotions that appeared. It was not the images alone that inspired me but the stories behind the photographs. Here are five photos from the final edit that stuck with me because of their visual strength and their narratives. —Stephanie Sinclair
One of the first images to catch my eye was by photographer Mohammed Yousef. Mohammed shared the story of Malaika, a well-known cheetah in Kenya’s Masai Mara National Reserve. In his caption, Mohammed explains the protective expression and stance he captured as the mother stood over her cubs. “A lioness killed one of her cubs, [now] she is left with five.” Not only did this image have beautiful light and strong composition, but it also resonated so strongly with the quote I shared from Emily Dickinson.
The stunning portrait by Tracey Stevens is of a woman named Alex, who is eight months pregnant, delicately holding several broken eggs. Her caption reads, “The eggs cradled in her arms are representations of the eggs she lost and the babies she miscarried. There was both pleasure and pain while taking this photo, the pain of loss and the joy of a new life who is now a gorgeous full-of-life two-year-old.” I felt it important to show a less frequently photographed aspect of the mother and child relationship. Tracey’s depiction of infertility and loss is respectful and powerful.
Daniel Perlaky submitted a thought-provoking image of a moment between a mother and daughter living in Nepal. Daniel showed a sophisticated understanding of the decisive moment, looking not for peak action but instead for a subtle yet powerful instant. “This beautiful and honest moment completely captured my heart,” he writes in his caption. “They remained quietly like this for nearly a minute.” The farming family left their home to move to a smaller shack with a location that would allow their daughters to attend school.
Ankit Narang didn’t have to travel far from his home in Delhi to photograph an image for the Mother and Child assignment. As he explained, “[While] some laborers were working right below my house, I climbed up on my terrace and unexpectedly found … [a] mother … taking a nap with her daughter. Forced to work as a laborer due to lack of education and no other means left to make a living … they make the construction site their temporary home, moving from one place to another.” I loved that Ankit not only found a beautiful moment but also took the extra step of learning about this family, thereby making the image much more powerful.
For the final photograph, Cletus Nelson Nwadik wrote about his experience traveling to Nigeria after living many years abroad. “Academically girls are doing better than boys at schools in my village,” he said. “Boys [die] more than girls in their infancy … Without girls my village will perish. Girls have so [many] burdens on their shoulders. They sometimes hold the weight of the world on their shoulders. But girls [live] longer and often [are] not involved in drugs as much as boys … The future belongs to girls … Poverty and getting married at [an] early age are their biggest challenges …”
For more photographic interpretations of Mother and Child see the rest of the published story on Your Shot.
Proof has featured the work of Stephanie Sinclair many times. Hear her talk about creating a sense of urgency through photography, and listen to her discuss her latest assignment for National Geographic magazine, photographing the living goddesses of Nepal.