My childhood memories are often like flickers I can touch but never quite hold onto.

I have held onto one, though: My mother kneels down to lift me off the ground, and as she does, the sheer fabric of the scarf covering her hair shifts in the summer breeze that smells of jasmine. She caresses me, and I remember the glint in her eyes and the light hitting just the right spot on her face.

To this day, wherever I go, the covers women use over their hair feel like odes to my mother. It is impossible for me to look at the women in my life as people defined by anything other than their ambition, determination, independence and ultimately their choices, their individuality. When I think of all the ways women through centuries have covered and adorned their hair, all the way from Asia to the Middle East to Europe, I see customs that can bring women and cultures together, not ones that have to divide us. Although the women in this photograph are in India, and I grew up in Egypt, it’s an image that brings me close to that moment with my mother.

—Laura El-Tantawy