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Each time I begin working with a new group of children, I encourage them to take their cameras outside and explore their surroundings and imaginations. The children create stories, play out scenes, and really explore their imaginations within the space of the frame. I see how photography opens up a world of spontaneity, fun, and magic. These photographs show the world of the children as they truly see it: punctuated by play and surprise.

The house is quiet. They have gone to bed, leaving me alone, and the electric timer has just switched off the living-room lights. It feels like the house has settled in and finally turned on its side to fall asleep. Years ago I would have gone through my mother's purse for one of her cigarettes and smoked in the dark. It was a magical time that the house was mine.

Tonight, however, I'm restless. I sit at the dining-room table; rummage through the refrigerator. What am I looking for?

An old, sprawling house, empty since Grandma died. During the Cultural Revolution the family had to scrape off all the decorations with a knife and cover the holes with cement. Each New Year they used to gather together to clean the house, it was a festive and happy tradition, with a sad sequel. The house was demolished by order of the government, the land confiscated to make way for a paper factory. The money was divided over the numerous family members, whose xue mai or ‘blood connection’ has been severed now that they have been violently driven apart. In the old days Jane and her family went swimming in the river behind the house, now the water is polluted.
Starting with labor and its need for privacy and darkness, parenting is primal. There’s so much talk about methodology, but we’re animals, relying on instinct. Sure, our kids can take Mandarin, but at the end of the day, we’re just trying to keep them alive. I’m angry that I worry about sending you to school, but at the risk of paralysis, I relegate this fear to a subconscious level. I read that bullet-proof blankets have been invented for school shootings, and I wonder: is this fear more than, equal to, or just different from the fear of mothers throughout history?