This year our Christmas card was based around a poem by Richard Gill called the Christmas picture. I was asked to come up with an image to complement the words and chose to take an out of focus photograph of a modern mother and child. Read on to find out why…
Mary and the baby Jesus have been painted in many different poses which each tell us about how the Church has understood them and helps us reflect on different elements of who they are. For example, the Virgin Hodegetria (left), which means “she who shows the way” points towards the baby Jesus showing us that he is the way to salvation. My favourite is the Virgin of Tenderness (right) who rests her cheek against her son’s in a gesture of of the affection and love between them.
Richard’s poem was partly inspired by images of the Virgin “Kryiotissa’ This pose emphasises the divine nature of Jesus as he sits up on Mary’s lap. Mary is sitting on a throne showing her very important position as Jesus’ Mum. To bring the human nature of Jesus into the image as well as the divine I chose to photograph a mother and child I know to remind us that Jesus was born just like we were and sat on his mum’s lap, just like we did.
I took the photo out of focus deliberately so that the image could portray a more universal idea of the mother and child. If the photo had been in focus it would simply show Amanda and Sebastian who modelled for me, which while lovely would limit the way we project our own ideas onto the figures.
This technique is often used on the front cover of novels where we see an out of focus figure who could be the main character from the book, such as this one by the photographer Marc Yankus. If we could see the person clearly we would no longer be able to project our own image of their features and expressions that the words of the book allow us to create in our minds.
My friend in the photo often talks about the overwhelming love a mother feels for her children which Mary must also have felt for her little boy Jesus. I hope this Christmas card helps you to reflect both on who Jesus is, living here as a man whilst also being God’s son and also your own relationship with him today as the one who loves us so much it is beyond our understanding.