The living photograph is about a photograph of the poet's grandmother.
it is clear the photograph was taken some years ago as the poet says that her grabdmother is tall and straight-back in the photograph.
then the poet discusses the appereance of her grandmother- broderie anglaise shirt, pleated skirt, flat shoes, grey bun and more.
"her big hand holds mine, white hand in black hand" the poet and her grandmother are mixed race.
then the poet says that she had a death look in her grandmother's eyes.
we know later that her grandmother became sick, she became smaller, hunched and forgetful. "she went to the awful place grandmother's go"- death or heaven is often mentioned as a place to children as they are not matured to understand this things.
the last stanza, the poet tells us that there is one photo still left which her grandmother took with her when she was three years old, still smiling. she belives that her grandmother is still living in the photograph.