I recently read a book where the author asserted that the word “namaste” has been whitewashed, and that in India, it really is more of a greeting like “hello.” I have not fact-checked this, so please understand that as a white woman who’s never traveled to India, I don’t have any credibility. I spent a number of years teaching yoga though, and I ended classes with “namaste.” My mother asked me after seeing a number of bumper stickers pop up around town as yoga became trendy, “Am, what does nom-moss-tee mean?” I love her.
And, at that time, I bet I thought I knew exactly what it meant, and I’m sure I rattled off something I’d read in a book or been spoonfed by a yoga teacher. Nowadays, I just don’t know much about anything any more, but the definition I love most comes from Lou Chapman, fellow yoga teacher / writer / and photogapher (just like me). He says the Cliff Note version of Namaste is simply “I see you.”
I have always loved that. And now that I suspect that “namaste” has been translated in ways that appeal to the western audience, I love it more because perhaps it is just simply: hello…I see you. I acknowledge you’re there.
All of this philosophical jargon just to say that when I photograph families, I always hold the intention to get one beautiful photo of Mom. I might sell it to her on the notion that her children will want it some day, and I do believe that’s true. But, it’s also because children can absorb all of our time and energy and resources. (I’m still so new at this motherhood thing, but I think that’s safe to say…or maybe I’m just doing it wrong ). So I take a photo of every mother I photograph as if to say “I see you”: I see you and the sacrifices you’re making and how hard you’re working to make sure everyone gets a snack every five minutes and you are beautiful and worth celebrating. as I was trying to take a photo of this beautiful doe-eyed mama holding her new babe and suddenly (as it always happens) the toddler became interested in the camera again, and I got this shot and thought “Wow, how fitting” - an authentic portrait for a mom to two, yet there she is…can’t you see her…wrapped up in the forever frame of her entire world.