At first glance it looks like a classic: “Mother and Child”, the standard image drawn, painted and photographed a million times in many different ways. The image usually represents St. Mary and the infant Jesus — But even as a secular image without any religious overtones, a “Mother and Child” picture has deep resonance for most people.
It seems to say “Look- this is who we are, all of us, this is how we came to be”. It’s probably the most common image that exists, too universal even to be a cliché. But this picture is a little different.
For one thing, the woman is very young, an early teen-ager, little more than a child herself. And she’s not looking at the child with love; she’s holding him like a grocery bag. She stands there motionless, staring into empty space, her eyes blank, her mouth open.
And, unlike the child in a common image, this child is not asleep, or even resting peacefully; he seems to be twisting awkwardly in the woman’s grasp. It’s hardly an image of motherly concern. And then there’s the setting.
“Mother and Child” images are normally set indoors, in well protected environments with a feeling of security, even if it’s only a manger in a cave. And often there are supporting figures pictured: some angels, or at least a husband. But here, the woman and child are alone in the open, with nothing behind them but ruined concrete pillars, torn fishnets, and the empty sea.
There’s no feeling here of warmth and concern over a protected child. This image is actually the reverse of a standard “Mother and Child” image. It’s a picture of empty-hearted isolation and unconcern for the child’s welfare. One fears for such a child’s future.
It’s a disturbing picture and a real situation, even a common one. I took this picture some years ago, but I’m sure a similar picture could be taken somewhere in Dumaguete today, if anyone cared to do so. Not all children are loved and wanted.
That afternoon I saw this girl standing near my house with the baby, strongly framed by the broken pillars and the sea. I had a camera, so I took the picture. I thought it would make a nice seaside scene, so I had it enlarged. I only realized then, when I looked at it, what a strange picture it really was.