After a few weeks of feeling very Blah about whats going on in photography right now two things happened. First off i went to the opening of Ponch's show at the MGA ( more on that to follow). Her work inspired me so much I felt giddy but also felt like i would die from cringe that she came to see my show last year ( her work sophisticated and genuine, I had footballers at my opening...)
Then my mac opened my favorite websites in my history and a photography site I look at mossless came up. I clicked to enlarge and was blown away by the feature interview they had with Suzanne Révy. Suzanne's biography tells me she studied photography in a time when street photography was in it's golden age in New York. She worked as a photography editor for U.S news and World Report in Washington and later with Yankee magazine.
What Suzanne does now, however, is to take the most glorious photos of her children and her families children in the ongoing work Small Wonders. The images fill the viewer with a nostalgia for the ideal childhood, even if the viewer never experienced one. Natural children, completely seperated from modern artiface, play in the woods, swim in lakes and hide on boxes. All moments are captured with exquisite detail and a sentimentality that somehow never becomes trite.
Children are easy to photograph. In fact I told my partner the other day as he whined when I took his photo that " I cant wait to have kids so I can take photos of them and not deal with your complaining anymore!". But there is nothng "easy" about Suzannes photos. They are layered with questions of childhood identity, of what it means to be a child ( and parent) in such an unstable age. In a time of beauty parties for 5 year olds, video games and Miley Cyrus, her photos resonate with the slightly foggy memory of what childhood once was. There is nothing cynical, nothing sinister to say about the world- she presents her images without pretention and reminds every photographer out there what photography really has the power to do. To create a reality seperate to the one we live in with the simple click of a shutter.
The photos draw an obvious comparison to probably the world's most sucessful photographing mother Sally Mann, but Suzanne's work focuses more on the play in her children than the social commentary I have always read into Mann's work. I always got the feeling Mann's images say more about the world we live in than about her children themselves. Suzanne's work leaves the viewer with an overall feeling of joy of a palpable sense of family, of love, and of the heartbreakingly short length of childhood. There is no agenda, no questioning of her own mothering. The work is at once personal and universal. She is documenting this time as she sees it, not as she thinks the world should?
I recently completed a grants application in which I cited that Bill Henson's work has always said more about him than the children he photographed. Suzanne's work says more about the sanctity in which society once held childhood than any other photographer I have ever seen, but says it with subtlety, grace and most importantly, joy.