May 16, 2003

México’s Children

Childhood trough the eyes of twenty Mexican photographers

By Mariana Martinez

The term childhood is a relatively new one, born after the French Revolution. Before that time, children where considered miniature adults with wild souls, but under the freedom, equality and fraternity ideals, children were seen under new social standards as a symbol of paradise lost and found in their innocence.

In México, childhood is not just one, but many, with a variety of climates and ways of life, it is a land where children play on tropical beaches or live in the merciless mountains of Chihuahua, like the colorfully clothed tarahumáras; they are home for children who work, nap, cry and melt into the arms of those who love and guide them, kids who discover their own bodies and those of others, amazed at human kind.

Childhood is also the name of a new book issued by the National Council for Arts and Culture (CONACULTA) trough its Publishing house and the Wings and Roots for Children Program. It is a book devoted to capture the images of childhood in its different stages, from the moment of birth to the discovery of pubic hair, voice changes and the little before seen growth of man kind starting from its seed, the terrible angel we all have been.

Boy with turtle by Adrián Mealand

The project was an idea by Obdulia Calderón, a Mexicali (Baja California) born photographer who started the venture of coordinating and selecting the work of nineteen other renowned photographers from all over the country amongst them Patricia Aridjis; Adrián Mealand; Víctor Mendiola; Laura Cano and Ireri de la Peña.

For the book released, May 9, the authors invited two greatly experienced photographers to comment on their work and tell the public about the context of some extremely interesting images.

Rodolfo Candelas Castañeda is a cultural promotor and photographer who studied in the Ansel Adams Collage of Photography and in the Active School of Photography, he has worked in many papers in México, including Reforma, El Diario de Morelos and Collections magazine constantly showing his work in collective and individual international exhibits. He is known especially for his cultural- photography, such as the photographic registry of the contents of the Carlos Pellicer Museum or Tepoztlán´s Ex-Convent, he is founding member of the photojournalism Association of the State of Morelos, dedicated to promote Photojournalism seminars.

He commented on the book along with Pablo Guadiana, a Baja Californian photographer who has worked with the great Francisco Mata Rosas, Maria-na Yampolsky, Yolanda Andrade, Elsa Medina, Pablo Ortiz Monasterio and Enrique Trejo, he won his first award in 1994 for his project Naked with Baja California’s History. Since 1998, he has been a photography teacher for States University (UABC) Arts and Philosophy School and he is responsible for collective exhibits called Photo-faith... Hope for the image.

Both of this personalities commented Childhood with the help of slides, discussing many relevant aspects of the work included. They both noted on the pride shown in the pictures of kids working in the fields, besides their dirty clothing or impressive landscape, the looks and postures on those kids show they are proud of their way of life which gives them dignity. They also talked about the spontaneity and natural way to pose in front of the camera, these kids show the important role they play in their everyday life and the overall joy of childhood aside from difficult circumstances, an overall happiness reflected in their face.

Both photographers and some people from the audience mentioned they felt many of the photographers work was accessibly focused in showing images of poverty stricken children and broken toys, and forgot the wider dimensions of Mexican social structure including middle and upper class childhoods.

This observation is not new in Mexican art, it has been going on for decades and only now are the public and artistic forums starting to look outside that Mexican poverty stereotype in search of a wider definition of “Mexican.”

Another subject brought up in the conference was the tight relationship children seem to have with all kinds of animals: goats, cows, and chickens are a vital part of rural childhood, developing in a close and vital relationship, very different from the one urban kids have with their pets. For many children living in the Mexican jungle, iguanas and turtles are a part of normal scenery and their community’s way to make a living.

Childhood is a photographic book all of us can enjoy, born in the various hands of skilled photographers scattered all over México’s majestic landscapes. It is documentation of childhood dreams, -sometimes cruel-realities, games and cultural practices in the different regions of this country.

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