‘Growing up has always been a full-time job which really requires a lifetime.’ (Elizabeth Taylor, The World of Children, 1966, Paul Hamlyn, London.)
Young boys run around the garden with wooden shotguns and rifles. They hide in makeshift trenches, bind one another hostage with rope and sit around a campfire with weapons resting in their laps. A father has attached the sight of his .22 rifle to a piece of wood, roughly shaped into a gun, for the children to play with. This Tasmanian summer’s day, on the banks of the Break O’ Day River, marked the beginning of a journey, that has left a lasting impression on all of us.
For the boys, it is an odyssey of self-discovery. For me as photographer, it is a privilege to witness the creation of self. Watching a child shaping its own identity through play. Acting out scenes of survival to come to terms with the raw emotion felt in the wake of tragedy – to make sense of the world. British child psychologist, Phyllis Holster, says a child uses play to master its own reality in the same way adults use intellectual reasoning.
The first cubbyhouse on the Break O’ Day was a modest structure, except for the bright red feathered arrows standing tall at the front entrance, identifying that the boys were in residence. It became their headquarters where they would discuss how to survive adversity. What would they do if they were lost in Africa? What were the different ways they could die? How could they light a fire without matches, what is the best way to make a rabbit trap and who would be in charge of what duties? Before the oldest went to boarding school, the boys would meet each day after school to play out scenes of survival – literally and metaphorically. Now they just meet on weekends.
Survival has become their rite of passage. Acting out scenes from WWI fuels their imagination. As Elizabeth Taylor wrote in the foreword of The World of Children, it is ‘imagination (that) makes magic come about. For once, the child is in power over his environment.’ Over the last three years, the rituals have become more elaborate as they develop new skills. It will be fascinating to see how the story is played out over the next few years.
SARAH RHODES‘ strong interest in social documentary photography has taken her on a delightful journey into the lives of others. She established her career at News Limited’s Sydney bureau after working on several newspapers in London. At that time, her romantic fascination with the ‘artist’s life’ inspired her to start work on a photographic project, now known as The Artist’s Lunch (Murdoch Books, 2008). The illustrated book offers a rare glimpse into the kitchens and studios of 18 of Australia’s most celebrated artists, from Margaret Olley and John Olsen to Michael Zavros and Philip Wolfhagen. A fascination with creativity is the thread that ties Sarah’s work together.
Sarah has held several exhibitions in Sydney, including at the Iain Dawson Gallery in Paddington, the Head On Photo Festival in 2010 and the Sydney Writer’s Festival in 2008.
More of Sarah’s work can be seen at her website.