Monday, 5 December 2011

Photographing the kids

I wanted to flag up this article on Burn, more for the discussion it has provoked, quite surprising given the uncontentious subject matter, than the images per se.  It is a series of exquisite images taken by Juliette Mills of her two sons, within the context of 'the importance of the natural world in children's lives'. I couldn't agree more with her sentiments. The comments seem to fall in to two broad camps, the first that the essay is a technically excellent and visually beautiful, intimate account. Yes, agreed. The other seems to suggest that the essay is not 'edgy' enough, that they are unchallenging portraits of children, more a nostalgic parents view than enlightening of a child's perspective.

Personally, I think the images are beautiful with a fairytale idealism about them and what's wrong with that? A wonderful family heirloom for the future.  However, my own experience of parenting fails to live up to these cinematic clips of cordiality. Call me a cynic but we live in the countryside and its not like that in our all!

There are of course many special moments to photograph, but come on...what about the arguments, the scuffed knees, the snotty noses, the nits, the challenging behaviour, know...reality, the rest of it...does she not live with a hoard of riotous hooligans, or mischievous pixies, who roll around scrapping like tiger-pups over calamities such as who the pink bobble or rogue cheerio belongs to? Why is her floor not scattered with random broken toys and pairless socks?

There does seem to be an absence of images to counter-balance this rural idyll. Does that matter?  Is a dose of realism really necessary? Perhaps it is a true reflection...I take my hat off to her if it is. Alternatively, it could be an artistic decision or as a result of rigorous editing or even selective shooting. I am also wondering how the images respond to the artist statement and if they are marginally incongruous.  I recently came across this series by Simone Donati called Valley of Angels which is more about immersing oneself in country life and living off the land, which is closer to my interpretation of the rural idyll, but again that's more a reflection of my views than her images.

What I can take from this is the value placed on the artist statement and how the images are cross-referenced and judged by it. There are inherent dangers if the two don't marry up seamlessly. I think what has been highlighted to me too is how exposed you become when your work is featured in this way. Juliette has come up against a barrage of comments, discussion and criticism, much helpful and no doubt much soul-searching too.   I admire how Juliette responded constructively and undefensively. From a general point of view, it is important as an artist to accept that not everyone will like our work and criticism is inevitable. Although it may be hard to achieve, as art is often a personal extension of ourselves, it is a necessity to adopt a level of robustness and find ways to navigate our way around such feedback in a constructive rather than denigrating way.

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