» Children’s Voices
This was a self initiated project with the London children’s charity Chance UK that ran over 18 months and culminated in two exhibitions and an article in the Observer Magazine. I followed three children and their mentors over the one year period the children we with the charity. I also had the great privilege to work creatively with the children to produce their own visual expression of their lives and the joys and challenges they faced within their individual situations. Millie Simpson the director of photography for Tatler magazine wrote the intro to the brochure that accompanied the show.
c h i l d r e n ’s v o i c e s
Virginia Woods-Jack is an important emerging talent within contemporary photography. She has produced a body of work on adolescence that is characterised by it’s sensitivity and dignity. Her pictures are honest and full of integrity, and her self awareness protects the children’s inner worlds from being projected onto by the viewer. She works within the social documentary tradition, and in this project her work coexists with the children’s photography of their own lives which has been developed under her guidance.
Virginia felt the work of Chance UK was innovative and inspirational, and saw an opportunity to collaborate photographically with the children involved. She worked for a year on a monthly basis spending time with the children and their mentor, both photographing their activities and encouraging the children to use the cameras she provided to document theirlives and self-image back to themselves. She refers to the photography theorist Susan Sontag’s statement that “photography has replaced memory,” and says that her motivation within this project was to create photographs that “would stimulate the children’s memory of the time spent on the scheme”.
The resulting photographs show her commitment to each child’s individuality. She encapsulates each of the children’s personalities truthfully and accurately as expressed by them through their own photographs. By explaining her photographic techniques to the children involved she has demystified the camera, allowing for both thoughtful and candid observations to emerge as she followed each child as they have been empoweredby the one years scheme.
At first glance the symmetry between Virginia ‘s portraits and the children’s own photographs are startling. Each child has expressed a part of themselves through their photographs. Sabrina is a pleasure seeker, desiring a world where she is surrounded by happy friends enjoying themselves. We see her enjoying the attention of her mentor, and in the remarkable catalogue cover photograph see her embodying childhood laughter. Hassan’s photographs are both hugely imaginative and cerebral. His self-portrait of his shadow with his favourite tree, his image of both freedom and perspective with the shot of the plane in the sky show an intelligent response to describing himself visually. His portrait of his mentor, happy proud women who ‘looks up’ to him is joyful, and shows how successful the scheme has been for him. Charlotte’s photographs reveal her immediate environment, again using her shadow to position herself with in it. We are shown her self-contained drawing in an art class, looking out at the world around her in the shopping mall.
Like much great children’s literature Virginia s work deals with metaphors of experience and self-knowledge. She shows us Hassan on the climbing frame of life with his mentor,photographs him as he photographs a young stag. Charlotte is shown reminding her mentor of the childhood game of hopscotch and Sabrina gazing with wonder into a shop display of what is available to her in the world.
This exhibition shows each child as special and unique. Virginia Woods Jack is a gifted photographer showing us a time in all our lives when we learned to deal with the complexities of relating to the world outside us, of understanding the difference between the public and private and the value of observing the whole of that journey.
(frames 11-16 are the children’s images)