Straight from the heart

Feb 6, 2016 | 2 comments

American-born photographer Thomas Ives has worked for international news and feature magazines for over 38 years. His photo essays and images have appeared in National Geographic, Time, Geo, Stern, Newsweek, Life, Smithsonian, and many others publications. He currently lives in Vilcabamba with his Ecuadorian partner. For more about Thomas, click here, or here (en español).

Otavalo girl with doll, 1974

The 42 years since I took this photo have disappeared in a blink.

In 1974, I was 28 and this Otavalo niñita was about 4. I was visiting a family of weavers in one of the surrounding villages and had been photographing her father at his back strap loom when I heard gentle chatter from an adjoining room. I looked in to to see the child’s mother placing a wool coverlet around her daughters feet and legs. The girl was busy playing make-believe guardian to her doll: adjusting the tattered shawl and making sure the swaddling wraps were secure.

When she noticed me, I asked “What is your dolls name.” I don’t remember her answer but her open-hearted look will forever stay with me. I only recall making this one photo of her. Then I disappeared from her life.

In the years since the image was made, she could have become a grandmother and possibly a great grandmother. Her extended family could number in the hundreds. How many dolls have been swaddled and cared for over four decades in preparation for real motherhood in her family?

Often, while looking at old photos, I wonder where my subjects are today and how their lives are playing out.

I have it in my mind that sometime during the coming year I would like to see if I can find this woman and discover what has become of her since we first met. I would like to hear her story, meet some of her family and gift her this photo. I’m very sure there was never a candid photo taken of her when she was young.

— Thomas Ives


Copyright Thomas H. Ives 2015. Contact:

Thomas Ives

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