Out of all the photos that we amass, how does a single image become a favorite?
I considered this as I was in the small kitchen of my mother’s apartment. She is 97 and a few weeks old. She has put an old photo of herself on the side of her refrigerator, pinned at all four corners by two butterfly and two ladybug magnets. It is obviously an image of herself that she loves, and in fact I love it too.
My mother is probably about 20 in the picture and she is sitting on the grass holding a violin and bow. Now, the violin isn’t the significant feature. My mother is musical in general but piano was her instrument. She, like everyone in her family, dabbled in a variety of instruments and I guess she had a short period of trying out what she would call the fiddle.
The clothes aren’t the thing. She is wearing a plain sleeveless shift dress and clunky lace-up shoes. She is not wearing the dark lipstick of the time. She didn’t take off her wire-rim glasses. I don’t think it was a special occasion, just some moment that someone had a camera to use and they used it on her.
So what makes it a wonderful photo of her? It is how she sits so straight, knees folded to the side. It is an awkward position but she is perfectly at ease; back and head upright, easy long neck, small smile to the picture-taker. Instead of seeing plain shoes you notice the beautiful line of leg to extended foot. She holds the violin perfectly perpendicular to the earth and the bow in a perfect horizontal.
Graceful as a geisha print, my mother sits on the yard of the farm in Ohio. I am so happy this momentary image was captured.