Melanie and the Jumping Cat


Melanie and the Jumping Cat, Sodom, Madison County, NC 1975


I hadn’t seen Melanie Rice Penland in some time before running into her, her husband Nate, and their son Ezra at a party a couple of weeks ago. Seeing her reminded me of a photograph I made almost forty years ago. Melanie’s mom, Sheila Kay Adams, had taken me up to Dellie Norton’s house for the first of my many visits with Dellie and her family. Sheila had her young daughter with her and I was immediately smitten. Melanie had a presence even then at three or four years old. Direct, bold, and self-assured.

Children are among the hardest subjects for photographers. It’s relatively easy to picture youguns as cute and playful, the apples of our eyes. And they seem to know exactly how we want them to look - endearing, irresistible, and ultimately cute. But making an image that gets beyond the smiling superficialities and into the heart of the child is a different matter. In this case Melanie, with her open and patient gaze, made it easy.