A fairy tale invention

I started reading again about the development of photography in its’ early years. Not so much for historical purposes but to decipher analogies with today’s popular access and extreme fashion of digital still images.

I felt that the assumption that images of those last years are the new popular hobby and habit that we need to research upon, was just a one sided reading of the story. Obviously its extreme use by both amateur adults and children (which is my topic) is not coincidental, but neither is it unique. There have been several similar cycles of intense or occasional commercial burst related to the still image in the past. This tool, this technique, this way of expression, has offered several times in history amusement, entertainment, artistic expression and communication. Obviously the process was different and the access too. But it seems that each time, history supports its analogies. For example , from the 1860’s through the early decades of the 20th century, tens of millions of stereographs were manufactured and sold.

Stereographs: where reality met fiction

Stereographs: where reality met fiction

The predecessor of 3D was an extremely popular item and experience. Both for kids and adults (M. Heifemann, (ed) Photography changes everything, Smithsonian Institution, 2012) Lets not forget that Europe and North America, where mostly this would be happening, had only 400 million people inhabitants together. Companies were mass producing stereographs and shrewdly marketing them as both educational aids and home entertainment. Reminds you something?

The question is what could we learn from these life cycles of the image? What was the understanding of reality and representation? What was the relationship of children during those times with the act of visioning through a frame? Lets have a look at one of the few known children photographers of the beginning of the 20th c.: Jean Henri Lartigue (1894-1986) . A young bourgeois, of course, who offers us though a very young at heart point of view. Here is what he himself wrote:

My cousin, by Lartigue

My cousin, by Lartigue

“as a spectator I enjoy myself. But suddenly this morning an idea began to dance around in my head, a fairy tale invention thanks to which I will never again be bored or sad: I open my eyes, shut them, open them again, then open them wide and hey presto! I capture the image, everything: the colors! the right size! And what I keep is moving, smelling living life. This morning I took a lot of pictures with my eye-trap.”

This attitude sounds very familiar to me, reminding a few six year old kids I worked with at a park project 4 years ago. Our underlying theme were the 5 senses and we used small digital cameras (Karamella Nursery, Athens, 2011). It was still a period that kids wouldn’ t have access to smart phones but some would be allowed to hold their parents’ Cybershot or other small digital cameras. A day in a big park with their classmates and the encouragement to observe and take pictures of what they like most triggered the photographer inside them in a very passionate way. As if the tiny digital frame became a new way of seeing the park itself and the life inside it. A particular boy was very passionate about looking at things and clicking in a way that reminds both Lartigue and the way children treat sweats. I believe the question can be about the observation skills that children may develop and the connections they can make about the world around them through photography.

JH. Lartigue's photo of his room

In my room my collection of racing cars, 1905

A photography workshop downtown Athens

Τ. Χρισσαίτη

Τ. Χρισσαίτη

Tsikos2

Π. Τσίκος

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Δ. Φραγκούλης

Αγνωστες πτυχές του Θησείου ήταν ο στόχος του εργαστηρίου φωτογραφίας που υλοποίησα στο Μουσείο Ηρακλειδών. Μια ποικιλόμορφη ομάδα, έδεσε τη ματιά της προσφέροντας μας την πιο άνιση φιγούρα που θα περιμέναμε από αυτήν την διάσημη περιοχή που βουλιάζει από τουρίστες, αργόσχολους και τραπεζάκια. Από επιλογή σε επιλογή, συζήτηση και αναίρεση, φτάσαμε σε μια παλέτα γραμμών και επιφανειών που αναδεικνύουν ένα κέντρο, συχνά άγνωστο στον καθημερινό περιπατητή.


Revealing images from the center of Athens, occurred as a result of a documentary photography workshop I lead during the last 2 months. With a focus at the famous Thisseio area, just next to the ancient Agora and below Acropolis, we searched for personal visions, details which intrigued the one or the other member of the group. My role was minimal, just to give incentives concerning street photography and keep the discussion going on upon the series of photographs arriving in the projector room. I tried to see what were the qualities of each participant. People with different backgrounds from architecture to engineering and from graphic design to medicine, sales and administration concentrated in discovering lines and surfaces, characters and moments, subversions and typical visions of the area, that we all, Athenians- and tourists- share. The most intriguing part of the workshop was to eliminate our choices of preferred photographs, as each participant would have the chance to actually exhibit ONE in a proper exhibition offered by our host, the Herakleidon Museum, right in the heart of Thisseio.TSIKOS