Being a Child
From what perspective can one say something about this slide? What punctum catches the eye of the observer and what happened in the lead up to this photograph? Is what we see a promise of truth from a private photographer?
Quite evidently at the centre of the photograph:
A child, plump and adorable, white baby clothes, little balls of the feet, red, wispy toddler’s hair, chubby cheeks and large eyes, innocent gaze upwards, accentuated by the grotesque situation of sitting in a tea trolley. Next to her, the father, steadying the tea trolley with one hand, reading and yet not reading, smiling and yet not smiling. Is his outstretched leg protecting the child – or with a gentle physical supremacy, is he stopping the child from getting down from the tea trolley until the photo has been taken?
The impulse for the photograph: the child, its Being Sweet, its sweet being – the thing that is attributed to childlikeness, that is supposedly Being a Child and that is nevertheless not. As long as it took for this photograph to be taken, as long as the camera was being fetched and the photographer pressed the shutter, the child stays in the tea trolley, imprisoned in Being Sweet. The child’s Being-with-Oneself, the reconnaissance of the tea trolley, the fingers exploring a smooth, mirrored Formica plate carried out until the point when someone shouted And look over here now, and where is…?
And what is latently present in this photograph is a kind of quiet betrayal – the parents have peered at, giggled at this childlike awkwardness, the limited horizons of her thirst for discovery. They are pleased that their child is little and sweet and is sitting in a tea trolley without knowing what this object is – and in doing so, they forgot what constitutes Being a Child, the Not Having to Know of Being in the World.
And here, now, directly at hand, the photographic evidence of an almost perfect oblivion of that first, tender present of an ego. The foot, the father, the distance, the hidden smile, a stand, calling out, turning around from exploring with fingers: the immediate reality. And arising from it, a memento of a child-being, that does not require a staged memory.Birgit Szepanski