I’ve written before about the aesthetics of play, and about how images of children at play have a particular character and charm. Children at play are at their most child-like, their most human, and I think it’s this that we respond to. It is their vitality and clarity of self that draws us, partly because it’s something we have largely forgotten.
I started taking images of playgrounds about 2 years ago, when working on my dissertation at University College London. I was taking an MA in Anthropology and needed to document changes in the site over time. I was studying children’s dens and forts, their place-making in play, and for ethics reasons I couldn’t use – or take – any images of children.
Pictures of play after the fact have a peculiar archeological quality. They’re like photographs of knocked-over wine glasses and stained tablecloths that tell you you’ve just missed a tremendous party. They remind us that children are different, that their behaviours are unique to their stages in development, and that even while we can watch them, study them, involve ourselves with their play and advocate for it daily, we will never entirely understand the way we did when we were young.
So here are some of my images of places-within-places, made by children at one London Adventure Playground.