© Paul Trevor
Friends showed me a little book last week, a photography book on kids.
Sometimes I think the love we have for kids (and the love they have for us) is the most precious gift in the universe. Nah, not sometimes … is THE most precious gift. So it was with great pleasure I discovered the work of Paul Trevor.
Paul Trevor began making pictures in the early 1970s, teaming up with photographers Chris Steele-Perkins and Nicholas Battye to form Exit, a group dedicated to documenting the social problems of British cities.
Paul spent 6 months in Liverpool in 1975 on a project to document inner city deprivation in the UK. What he found and photographed amidst these working class, and mostly poverty stricken burbs, was the inventiveness and exuberance and optimism of the children.
Helen Levitt (1913-2009) photographed children at play in the streets. Levitt never had kids herself, used a right angle view finder on her camera, played a mean hand of poker, and was by all accounts an outspoken eccentric.
These are the streets of New York, a few generations prior to Trevor (late 30’s and 40’s-90’s), and are again punctuated with all the hallmarks of kids at play and the pulse of street life. David Levi Strauss described Levitt as “the most celebrated and least known photographer of her time”.
More recently, Sebastian Salgado’s “The Children” publication (Aperture – 2000) gives us another sense of the next generation. Made, I assume, on his restless travels, Salgado departs from children as playful imps, and with immense dignity shows us the “adult” in every child. (With this work also, we have a wonderful lesson in the use of light, natural for sure).
The picture is not made by the photographer, the picture is more good or less good in function of the relationship that you have with the people you photograph. – Sebastian Salgado –
All three photographers (three of many) have acknowledged something important and meaningful for us all, across borders, streets and decades, we see something of childhood in ourselves and our memories are tweaked. Who was that kid? Was I happy? Was I secure? Did my parents love me?
Sadly, these days, photographing children is fraught with the paranoia of paedophilia. I cannot think of a more heinous crime, yet we are missing something when we don’t photograph, or see, as we do in the works of Trevor, Levitt and Salgado, the eternal beauty of children.