"Missions des P.P. du Saint Esprit - Cameroun - La facon de porter le bebe" ("The way of carrying the baby") A woman poses in front of a wall, carrying a baby at her side in a sling that hangs across her shoulder. The back of the postcard is blank, with printed information possibly about the photographer :"Phototypie J. Bienaime, Reims" Postcard issued by the Congregation of the Holy Ghost, a Catholic order that sent missionaries to French colonies in Africa. Woman carrying a child, Cameroon, ca.1920-1940 http://digitallibrary.usc.edu/search/controller/view/impa-m12284.html
This photo haunts me. In a good way though. I find myself looking at it daily. I should probably make it in to a desktop background. I love it. It is gorgeous. I think it is a perfect picture. The french text is “the way to carry a baby”, obviously in Cameroon… However, when I look at the picture, and think of the people who were photographers of the colonies during the time period of this picture, I can’t help but wonder if the photographer, who was almost certainly European and male was trying to capture the beauty that I see today when I look at this photograph. Aesthetics change over time. Me viewing this photo today is me not viewing the same photo that was captured at the time. I mean.. the caption says as much. I am seeing the beauty of a mother/caretaker gazing upon a child with a face that reads love/awe/protective/pride with the babies head tilted towards her. The caption says I should be looking at the contraption the baby is in.
--My Initial Reaction to this Photo
I had this photo for a year and had looked at it with a semioticians eye and never thought of an alternate answer to the way to carry a baby caption provided on the image. Social structures, family structures, feelings, expression, feeling and being are all present. It wasn't until September 22nd 2012 and a conversation with Gaye that I realized I had been limiting my own reading! After describing the image I showed her the actual photograph, and mentioned my frustration with the way to carry a baby. Her friend and colleague Bandana Purkayastha commented that the mother was showing so much pride and love in carrying the baby. Gaye looked at me and said "Perhaps the way to carry a baby is with pride and love." And in that moment the world was re-created for me. Not only did I learn one of the limits I had placed on myself, but I was shown how to move beyond it.