Elliot Erwitt’s Mother and Child

Mother and Child

Elliot Erwitt, Mother and Child, 1953.

Elliot Erwitt, Mother and Child, 1953.


The baby sleeps soundly, unaware of the feline’s presence and her mother’s loving gaze as she poses for her father. This is a photo by Elliot Erwitt, the famed Magnum photographer who shot people unaware in various situations, from tension filled moments like Richard Nixon poking Nikita Khrushchev in the chest to tender-filled moment like this.

There is much character and personality in the image, not so much in the humans and feline, but in the peeling fifties wall and that additional piece of cloth, thoughtfully laid out on the bed for the baby to sleep.

This portrait is unique in that the baby’s face cannot be seen. There are the other stereotyped baby portraits where the mother cradles the baby in her arms and the baby’s face is half seen. Here, we do not see the baby’s face, but the contours of her small body as she smiles angelically at her mother, at least in our imagination. Her mother, the young Lucienne Mathews, is beautiful in her post-natal maternity, with her high cheekbone and elongated nose, as she lays her head besides her bundle of joy.

Lastly, we have the main frontal of attraction- the family cat. It is placed or so happened to be there right in front of the camera that it is slightly blurred. Again, there is mystery and intrigue in the unseen face. What’s the cat’s expression or emotion? It looks perked up, curious at this new family addition as it stretches lazily on the bed.

‘It is a snapshot’ said Erwitt; the quick once-in-a-time moment, where the cat, the baby and mother are aligned in such a picture perfect composition with such tenderness that the photographer cannot simply ignore. He stands in the empty space right in front of the viewer, inviting us to enter his personal family moment.

Disclaimer: All views on the site are solely of the author’s and in no way are a representation of any individuals or organisations.

Copyright © 2014 Liau Shu Juan.

Email: mondaymuseum@outlook.com


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