Many photographers have focused their cameras on children as a way of capturing a world of playful naivety, uncorrupted by adult preoccupations. Conversely, in photographing children, artists have also explored decidedly darker themes. At least since Lewis Carroll’s eerie depictions of young Alice Liddell, photographs of children have raised questions about the fraught nature, and the creative possibilities, of exploring this seemingly mundane subject. At what point does photographing a child cease to be a celebration of youthful purity and become implicated in a more ambiguous economy of desire and aesthetic appreciation? In other words, what can such photographs tell us about the corruption of innocence, as well as the impulse to preserve it?
This selection of prints from LACMA’s collection explores the diverse ways that photographers have engaged the theme of childhood, raising questions about what it means to view children as subjects of art, and as objects of visual interest and visual pleasure.
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Image: Jan Saudek, Child, 1977, Gelatin-silver print, 10 1/8 x 8 3/4 in., LACMA, Gift of Graham and Susan Nash, M.91.359.65.