A lot of my photography deals directly or indirectly with childhood or, more specifically, the loss of childhood innocence. Too often, childhood innocence is lost long before childhood is over. I think that was true in my life in a lot of ways, which is why I seem to always go back to creating images that evoke childhood nostalgia.
Cultures all over the world have rites of passage that signify moving from childhood to adulthood. It may be based on reaching a certain age, or accomplishing a goal. It may be based in religion or tradition. In the United States, we don’t have a universal rite of passage that tells us we are all grown up. Some might consider graduating from high school to be such a rite, or moving away from home. I never considered those things my passage into adulthood. I guess part of me wanted my parents to declare me an adult, like the cliche scene that shows up in movies and TV shows.
Dad to son (after some event or ordeal):
“Son… yer a growed-up man now… it’s time you had my [pocket watch] [six shooter] [lucky coin] [sweet vintage car].”
Son (fighting back tears):
“Thanks Papa. You done raised me right.. I just wanna make you proud.”
(Back-slapping hugs ensue.)
I was well into my twenties, and married, when I realized that I still didn’t really feel like a grownup. Don’t misunderstand: I had a mortgage and a car and job and I paid my bills and did volunteer work. Our house was an old, worn down Victorian, which I was fixing up, learning as I went. By any measure, I was a “man,” yet I still felt like a child. (It didn’t help that looked like a teenager until I was thirty!) It seemed like I was waiting for someone else to tell me I was man, instead of just knowing it within myself.
This is not unique to me. I think it’s a pretty common occurrence. There may be many reasons, or combinations of reasons for it. Maybe it’s the lack of a specific rite of passage, or unresolved childhood trauma. Some parents never treat their adult offspring like adults. When I realized the crux of my issue, and resolved it, I began to be more confident and at peace within myself. I finally felt “grown up.”
I think images like this one are trying to evoke that feeling of leaving behind childish things, yet looking back on them with fondness, despite any trauma or unpleasantness. Children have an amazing capacity for resilience. That childlike resilience is something we all need to hang onto, even as adults.
Available in the shop as a 13×19 inch print, produced with archival, museum-quality materials.