‘At a time of crisis, I see my mother at peace’: Prarthna Singh’s best phone picture

Prarthna Singh describes the nationwide oxygen and bed shortages during India’s second wave of Covid, in April 2021, as a “traumatic time for everyone. People were carrying their loved ones from city to city. We all felt helpless.”

At the time, the photographer was living with her parents in Jaipur, Rajasthan, the “pink city”. The maharajah had most buildings painted this colour – which indicates hospitality – to welcome the Prince of Wales in 1876. Singh’s portrait, of her mother meditating and stretching in her garden, echoes this history.

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“Both the tiles to the left and the exterior wall of the home complemented my mother’s dress, as well as the flowers from the beautiful gulmohar tree,” Singh says. “My dad was holding my dress as I hung out of the balcony so I could shoot right above her.” His physical support of his daughter is a fitting metaphor: Singh’s father has been at the forefront of the fight for women’s rights and access to education in India.

The photo was taken at twilight, as light from the sky and a neighbour’s house cast shadows across the ground. In retrospect, Singh sees fatigue in her mother’s face. “There are many pressures and demands being a woman in India, and so many ways you’re expected to uphold your home and your family, especially in a time of crisis. But here she was taking a moment of self-care, so I see peace and beauty, too.”