I’m going to keep it simple today: pictures telling thousands of words, and all that (though first I have to explain a couple of things): I went out armed with a camera. It’s the second week of the school holidays and I wanted to find the things that children leave behind in their play. I thought ‘how hard will it be?’ I didn’t want to photograph children, just the things they left behind. I like to try to piece together ‘the play that happened here’. It’s a kind of forensic process, linked to the ghosts of play that I’ve seen unfold with my own eyes. I wanted to show that play happens.
However, I poked around off the beaten track in places I would have played in as a child (in the corners of car parks where the hedges are trampled down; down by the streams that filter through this city; on the wildlife reserve; in the places that others don’t really know are there). I was quite disturbed. I didn’t find a great deal of evidence of play that had happened here.
What I did find, on this only slightly drizzly day in the second week of the longest school holiday, were three totally empty fenced-in parks – this one at the recreation centre:
This one on an estate where there are plenty of children:
I thought: OK, I wouldn’t have played in these places either. Where were all the children though? I saw one or two with adults, two teenagers at the skate park, and that was it. Are they really all made of sugar, like parents must think they are, unwilling to let them out for fear of them dissolving in the rain?
The place was deserted . . .
. . . and not living up to advertised promise (I don’t want to give this company free advertising here, but these photos go hand in hand) . . .
I shall go out again to find these corners off the beaten track, to find ‘the play that happened here’ because I’m sure it must be out there somewhere. Mustn’t it? It must be. There must be streams bridged with dead branches, ropes slung and dangling from trees, old boots hanging from telephone wires out there . . . somewhere, right?
So, in the meantime, my camera at hand, my focus shifted. You start seeing things when you really look hard. There really are a lot of signs that are ‘no-focused’ in this place:
Anti-climb? Really? That wouldn’t have stopped me. Maybe it should be amended:
All this no-focus makes me think about an ‘only-culture’ we might have: only play in the sun (and only then when it’s not too hot); only play in fenced-in areas (and only then when adults are around); only play in this way, and not in this or this or that way.
It came with some amusement, then, to find this:
My apologies if any sensibilities have been offended, but freedom of expression, play, small subversions, are welcome distractions!