Thursday, 24 May 2012

The Missing Years

If you take a look at any social documentary photography before the late 1980s you will see images of children playing in the streets with bikes, carts, skipping ropes etc - reflecting the way they spent their leisure time within their own environment. This is important documentary information. Sadly, in this age of exaggerated fear for our children's safety, we have now made it unacceptable for photographers to record them in their surroundings. In the coming years we will find that we have lost a huge amount of information about how our children and their friends played and entertained themselves in their own neighbourhoods. The Facebook age will have recorded plenty of camera-phone images of children in the safety of their family surroundings, but little of the documentary material that previous generations of photographers have recorded.

This photograph was taken last week when I was returning to my car in Jamaica Street, Liverpool after a day in the city with my camera. I love the old warehouses in the area and when I saw two boys racing towards me on their bikes I thought it might be a chance for a vintage shot. Not wanting to alarm the children I had to 'shoot from the hip' - with my heavy DSLR this usually results in dismal failure, but on this occasion I got fairly lucky. I converted the image to B/W in order to recapture a feel of 60s Liverpool. It might not be great photography but it's social documentary and I'm happy with it!


  1. I agree with the problem of photographing children at play in public spaces. We are losing a valuable source of social history. Take, for example, the two boys riding their bikes in Jamaica Street if you had asked permission then the spontenaity would have disappeared. I think, sometimes, we have to take the photograph - with the caveat that the photograph does not demean the individuals and it is not offensive. The photograph of the boys, considering it is a hip one off shot, works. The composition with the overpowering building shadowing the boys works. The lighting falling across the subject in almost half shadow is so effective.
    Thanks, you are continuing thed tradition of social photograhy.

  2. thanks for your comments John. I totally agree that sometimes we just have to take the photo. Actually, street photography is probably best with an iPhone (or similar). It disguises that fact that you are taking the photo (no one takes any notice of people using mobiles) so the candid element is preserved. Sadly, I don't have one!