Live Virtual Group Session: 6pm EDT August 24th 2020

On Monday August 24, 2020 twenty-eight people participated in slow-looking and then discussing two black and white photographs taken by Tina Modotti, who traveled with Edward Weston to Mexico in the 1920s and became involved with the cause of workers.

Participants from England, India, Mexico, and the Philippines joined those from CA, CT, ME, NY, NJ, NM, and PA in responding to the photos titled “Hands Resting on a Tool” and “Hands Washing”: noticing the contrasts of dark and light, motion and stillness, the upright posture of one subject and the stooped or kneeling posture of another. People said they wanted to see the workers’ faces, guessed age and gender, wondered if those who were pictured worked for themselves or others, and drew our attention to the hands of the photographer, which do not appear in the prints. Looking closely at the photographs and creating possible meanings, participants imagined strength and purpose in the workers’ hand, and sympathy with the cause of workers on the part of the one documenting their labor. One person said the photos suggested sculpture, that these portraits of hands might be extended to include torsos and faces and formed into sculptures. Another person observed that the “pinky” of the hands that were washing was missing a joint. Looking at those hands, one person recalled the axiom “A woman’s work is never done” and also said that there was no real rest because the “resting” of hands on a tool was posed. One person remembered that the name Antwerp comes from a story involving hands and that colonial rulers sometimes punished those they colonized in Africa by severing their hands. This lead to discussing the many functions of hands and segued to the prompt: “Write about what hands can do.”

A handful of people read their 5-minutes of writing. These included narratives connecting hands to the mind or the heart, to the capacity to heal and hurt, and to prayerful intentions to “do only good.” As participants responded to what was read they mentioned images evoked (such as tree branches); comparing and contrasting the capacities that hands hold; the language of hands; gracefulness and movement; a series of questions that narrowed and deepened thought; playfulness in a piece of fiction and the possibilities afforded by prosthetic limbs. One account detailed the procedure of home dialysis—the procedure beginning with the sounds and rhythm of “snap and tap” that felt like a dance and included the seriousness of purpose to “remove deadly bubbles” from the lines connecting person and machine.

Participants are warmly encouraged to share what you wrote below (“Leave a Reply”), to keep the conversation going here, bearing in mind that the blog of course is a public space where confidentiality is not assured.

Also, we would love to learn more about your experience of these sessions, so if you’re able, please take the time to fill out a follow-up survey of one to two quick questions!

Please join us for our next session Wednesday, August 26th at 12pm EDT, with more times listed on our Live Virtual Group Sessions page.

Tina Modotti, Hands Resting on Tool, 1927
From Tina Modotti and Edward Weston, The Mexico Years. 2004. London: Merill Publishers Ltd
Tina Modotti, Wands Washing, 1927
From Tina Modotti and Edward Weston, The Mexico Years. 2004. London: Merill Publishers Ltd

8 thoughts on “Live Virtual Group Session: 6pm EDT August 24th 2020

  1. Swati

    I am Me

    I am the right bionic hand now residing with Mr. Phelps whose biological right hand had to be amputated as it had begun to rot. I am an electromyogarphy controlled asset and that is why I am the centre of attraction. Mr. Phelps fondly calls me as his costly doll. My left counterpart is jealous of me because no one really bothers to even glance at it now that I am with Mr. Phelps.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dr Yewande Okuleye

      Swati. Love your layered narrative. Th eright hand, left hand and Mr Phelps. I keep on thinking that I need to know who Mr Phelps is.


  2. Kristin Graziano

    Hands are clever. Voracious. Active.
    They can hold and touch and comfort.
    They can spark fear, incite violence, maim and even kill.
    They yield and uplift and accomplish and heal.
    Blistered, weathered, soft, calloused,
    They offer a glimpse into the being of their owner –
    Telling stories, telling truths.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Dr Yewande Okuleye

      I have never though of hands as voracious. This was a suprise. I really like the opening line . “Hands are clever. Voracious. Active”


  3. What hands can do~~~

    To look at the hands is to look at the essence of the being,
    to give a glimpse into the life led,
    the struggles faced.

    Furrowed wrinkles engraved into the texture,
    a mirrored reflection of hardships faced,
    stretching the will to survive,
    to be.

    Toiling to forge a better path,
    a better life.
    They are narrators of the story of existence,
    of determination,
    of a willingness to right the wrongs of the world.
    Outstretched, they offer security,
    a lifeline to hope
    for a better tomorrow.

    These hands caress the cheeks of a baby held close,
    offering reassurance,
    offering love,
    uniting hearts.

    Hands linked together,
    the very best of humanity.


    • Dr Yewande Okuleye

      I always like your philosophical musings, Michele. So, I will highlight phrases which just make your poem pop for me

      “stretching the will to survive” makes me think aboout the power of intention transmitted to the toiling hands that have to draw on willpower, and hope that their thankless toil, is not in vain. That the potential inherent in the souls, does not slip through their hands and evaporate.

      Hands linked together,
      the very best of humanity

      This made me think that we have a choice to link our hands together to do good or do evil.
      We make that choice.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Dr Yewande Okuleye

    Prayer beads

    May my hands
    only do
    good¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬———————————- today
    As my hands can make a good day everyday

    May my hands become invisible
    as I shape
    good thoughts ________________________________ into good deeds

    good deeds maketh the soul rest


    Liked by 1 person

  5. Dr Yewande Okuleye

    Prayer beads

    may my hands
    only do
    good¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬———————————- today
    as my hands can make a good day everyday

    may my hands become invisible
    as I shape
    good thoughts ________________________________ into good deeds

    good deeds maketh the soul rest
    as we journey through life’s labyrinth

    may my hands
    grace the lives
    of the young
    in my life
    to hold space
    for the young
    to grow strong

    may the hands of the young
    hold space for me
    to rest my hands

    may we remember
    to gift our hands to each other



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