Here's Elsa, a lovely two years old girl from the neighborhood. Aura and Elsa were playing together couple of days ago, and while I was looking after them I thought I might as well take some pictures since the light was pretty nice. So I just took few snaps with Elsa and didn't think about it too much. Later on when I was browsing pictures with my computer I found this shot again and was immediately delighted by it. While the golden hour light was nice, there was also something else in this shot which caught my attention – it was the raw nature of picture.
To understand where I'm coming from, I need to remind you that I took similar child portrait from Aura some days ago and also posted it to this blog (see that post here). While I liked this Aura's four year old portrait, it was still very conventional in a way that it presented a clean and happy child smiling towards viewer. The conventionality of that picture didn't simply rest on the surface, as it also, as a certain visual motif, represents the way how we as adults and parents want to see our children. Happy, clean and polite – to reflect our own values and success in parenthood. This sort of setting is even more prominent in pictures were small children are dressed in adult clothes like suit or something similar. If you have children of your own, you certainly recognize the motif and genre.
And yet, the childhood is much more than that. Even if children are surrounded by the golden light of childhood in general, the childhood also contains things that are continuously difficult, unfair and challenges their fragile identity. This is somehow convoyed with this picture, where Elsa has a somewhat troubled expression. She's not quite sure what to think of the situation where I just asked her to stand in a light and look into camera while I, as an adult, take picture of her. Her appearance also supports this raw state of childhood as her hair is a bit of a mess, dress closed by only one button and if you look carefully you can even see some milk stains dried over her mouth. This is what childhood is really about, being dirty and a bit confused while, at the same time, living this magical period of life which will affect you later of for the rest of your life. This is what I believe makes this picture beautiful, and to be honest, I like this picture much more than the one I took from Aura. While I've kind of known all this already before, it's easy to slip into that conventional path because that kind of imagery dominates children photography in general. Elsa made me realize it again as she is just beautiful standing there and surrounded by the golden and messy childhood.