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moshood on 3 photographs in the Tender Photo archive.
I admit: the imagination may be narrow. But, mostly, when I think about tenderness I imagine hands as primary agents in its enactment. Even more particularly, I imagine touch as a prime medium in the fulfilment of tenderness.
“Imagine a tenderness,” I tweeted one November night. The phrase had come to me, and I shared it as a prompting—that someone who saw it might be heedful enough to imagine a tenderness, if for some seconds. The photographs I've selected could as well be pictorial presentations of three separate imaginations that carried out the exercise. And yet they all feature hands, and conspicuous tactility. Too, they feature floral design—a fitting commonality, considering flowers being fabled for their attributions of delicateness.
The opening lines of Robert Bly's “Taking the Hands” fit somewhere in this delicate equation of upper limbs:
Taking the hands of someone you love,
You see they are delicate cages…
Look! The hand in Chokoe’s photograph offers you hydration. Look at the smaller boy in Adetutu's—the fond, sure-handed gentleness of that hold on his brother's neck and hand; the touching so palpable you feel it too. See the look in his eyes reciting a poem by William Kayper-Mensah:
I do not need your mirror
My barber is my brother.
Once, laying in bed with a young woman, my wandering hand settled on her head. She flinched hard, perhaps owing to cultural connotations of the casual placement of one's hand on another's head. Ubani's photograph takes me back to that moment. I was more intrigued than bruised; one who trusted me enough to be in my arms could also believe that I would do her destiny ill. That regardless of how soft my handling was, my tenderness was not all-embracing.
Now, would you imagine a tenderness—a thorough, wholehearted tenderness?
moshood is a writer and photographer who lives in the Eastern Region of Ghana. He is interested in utilising his photographic practice as a medium of self expression, of try-outs, and metaphysical exploration. His words have been published in a number of publications, both online and in print.
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This is the #2 edition of Correspondences, a pop-up series on Tender Photo, published every Saturday from March 4–May 20, 2023. I have asked a few writers to find “correspondences” between 3 photographs from the archive, chosen without constraint, and to write short commentaries on their choice. The goal is to open up Tender Photo’s editorial and curatorial process to an engaged group of readers, broadening the diversity of responses to the varied work featured so far.
Tender Photo is a bi-weekly newsletter on African photography, published Wednesdays and Saturdays. See the archive for more features on early to mid-career photographers. If this newsletter was shared with you, consider subscribing, or forward to a friend. Please whitelist the newsletter to ensure you never miss it.