What Does Childhood Look Like as It Passes?
Ben, Zane, Sam, 2006
Zane, Leo, Tab, 2004
Titled after a book of poems by Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Pictures of the Gone World is a new exhibit by Eugene photographer Blake Andrews at Blue Sky Gallery that captures the fleeting moments of family life in flashes of childhood. His photos show his wife and three sons in moments of humor, tension, beauty, and joy over a period spanning 13 years—honest portraits of times already past.
“It’s a nostalgic phrase, referring to things that are disappearing into the past,” says Andrews of the exhibit’s title, pointing to how that phrase can be applied to childhood itself. This nostalgia—the instant, in-the-moment nostalgia of raising children—underscores the work, in its theme and in the artist’s process. Andrews shot the entire exhibit on film and printed the photographs in a dark room, using techniques that are falling out of use. “I wanted to step back into that lost world as it’s disappearing and print that way deliberately,” he says.
His depictions of his children are personal and intimate, his choice of subject deliberate. “There’s a general movement away from photographing children, which I wanted to move against by putting my kids out there,” he says. “It’s pictures of a world that I see disappearing from public life.”
He describes being inspired by Ferlinghetti’s The World is a Beautiful Place, from Pictures of the Gone World, a poem that swoops through lived experience from war, consumerism, and politics through the quotidian joys of “smelling flowers and goosing statues. . . and waving hats and dancing,” before interrupting it all abruptly with “the smiling mortician.”
“Kids have a death wish in some ways, or at least they play it out in their life, and a lot of the pictures play to that,” he says. He points to images within his exhibit of violence or the proximity of violence, a menace that coexists with his subjects’ fervent joy. “And amidst all the happiness, the mortician is waiting, this perverse joy that relates strongly to childhood. I get that sense in the absurdity and beauty of youth…the poem itself gets at a lot of what I feel when I think about kids.”
Pictures of the Gone World runs through July 3.