Standing Woman, Sitting Woman, and Child (Nepal)

1967, printed 1986
Selenium-toned silver gelatin print

Signed in ink, titled, dated, initialed in pencil, Condé Nast copyright credit (courtesy Vogue) reproduction limitation, credit and edition stamps on the verso.

Irving Penn’s “Standing Woman, Sitting Woman, and Child (Nepal)” stands as a poignant example of his ethnographic photography. This photograph, taken during Penn’s travels to Nepal as part of his broader exploration of diverse cultures, offers a captivating glimpse into the lives of the people he encountered.

In this particular image, we see three individuals, likely representing three generations from the same family. At the center of the composition is a woman seated with one hand resting on her lap and the other gently cradling the head of a child sitting beside her on the ground. This tender gesture suggests a close familial bond between the two.

On the seated woman’s other side stands an older woman, her hand placed reassuringly on the seated woman’s shoulder. She holds a vessel in her other hand, perhaps symbolic of her role within the family or community. Together, the three figures form a harmonious tableau, conveying a sense of connection and interdependence.

Penn’s use of his portable studio, with its neutral backdrop and minimal distractions, allows the viewer to focus entirely on the subjects themselves. Through his lens, Penn captures not only the physical presence of the individuals but also the depth of their relationships and the richness of their cultural heritage.

“Standing Woman, Sitting Woman, and Child (Nepal)” is emblematic of Penn’s ability to create evocative and intimate portraits that transcend cultural boundaries. Through his ethnographic work, Penn sought to foster understanding and appreciation for the diversity of human experience, leaving behind a legacy of images that continue to resonate with viewers today.