We’ve all been living in a very different world over the past year as the pandemic has swept the globe. Paradigms have shifted, maybe forever. It’s still too soon to know if anything will go back to “normal,” whatever that even means. We’ve been yearning for some kind of change or a signal that we can get on with our lives. But the pandemic is far from over. Still, with the promise afforded us by vaccines, there is some light at the end of the tunnel.
When I received an email from Indian photographer Sutapa Roy introducing me to her new project, I immediately saw that yearning for hope in the face of so much negativity. The photos also tell a compelling story.
Roy’s “Wish My Butterfly Would Live Forever” tells the story of a young girl concerned about the health of the environment across the globe. But it’s also the story of a mother watching her daughter grow and mature and begin to really live and explore how to take her place in the world.
As the pandemic took hold, Roy began what would become this project by taking photos of her daughter. Roy told In Sight that as she spent more time with her daughter, the project evolved beyond taking photos. As she got to know her daughter more she learned that her daughter had a passion for the environment and its health.
This all tied into the pandemic, too. As Roy told In Sight:
“The improvement of unhealthy environmental condition and seeking for a better earth is an emergency now, and it is not possible for one or two to make any change which is so badly needed in the present insufferable situation. We have seen global health has been reportedly improved during worldwide covid-19 lockdown. That means it is achievable, but is it lasting? If so, how long shall it persist? And from a different stand point, we are facing the ultimate question — what are we leaving for our future generation? Who is responsible for all this chaos and who is going to heal it? Eventually ‘Wish my butterfly would live forever’ develops to be more like a fantasy of the girl that questions all our concern and desire to act for healing of mother Earth. Conceivably the story is an attempt to picture the girl lost in her imagined world. Images are fusion of organic and staging moments, along with lines written by her, taken only at my home in Kolkata during pandemic lockdown.”
One day, Roy’s daughter caught a wounded butterfly and held onto it, treating it with care and tenderness. The butterfly eventually flew away, and Roy’s daughter said, “Ma, wish my butterfly would live forever.”
Next week I’ll be headed to Philadelphia for surgery to help get rid of blood clots in my lungs. If all goes well, I’ll have a new lease on life, a second chance. It may sound cheesy, but it’s not unlike a butterfly emerging from the chrysalis and taking wing to air. So, in a sense, I identify with Roy’s daughter wanting to preserve the life of that butterfly.
Maybe this is why when I received Roy’s pitch to publish “Wish My Butterfly Would Live Forever” it immediately struck a chord. Roy’s work is also achingly beautiful and so very poignant. It’s a gorgeous story about a mother and daughter navigating not only the limitations of life under a pandemic but also realizing that growth and living are continuing. It’s a project about love and the desire to make life here on Earth the best that it can be, now. It’s a welcome message and reminder to all of us at this moment.
You can see more of Roy’s work on her website, here.
In Sight is The Washington Post’s photography blog for visual narrative. This platform showcases compelling and diverse imagery from staff members and freelance photographers, news agencies and archives. If you are interested in submitting a story to In Sight, please complete this form.
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