A happy song, from a happy time.
We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.
— George Bernard Shaw
For me, photography is play.
I have no-one telling me what to shoot; or how and when. I don’t make money from it (although I’d like to one day). The only constraints on me are time, light and my imagination.
The shot above is pure play. Not just the messing about with an onion, a smartphone and some tinfoil (now there’s a sentence you don’t often see), but the afterwards playing — the electronic doodling with photo-editing apps.
Diane Ackerman said “play is our brain’s favorite way of learning”, while the psychologist Jean Piaget offered this advice about creativity:
If you want to be creative, stay in part a child, with the creativity and invention that characterizes children before they are deformed by adult society.
— Jean Piaget
At the boy-child navigates his teens, we see less and less of the spontaneous joy that characterised his childhood.
Actually, we see less and less of him.
So it’s nice to look back and remember a time when days were full of simple pleasures that brought an expression of sheer joy to his face. It didn’t take much – a trip to the beach, an ice-cream, hanging out with a friend, a chance to play on a windy hill-top.
It’s tough growing up, but I hope that as he creates his adult persona, the boy-child doesn’t lose the capacity for joy.
This post was written in response to the Daily Post Weekly Photo Challenge. Here are some other responses that I’ve enjoyed:
Carefree: without worries or responsibilities.
We often think of childhood days as carefree; and it is true that watching young children at play evokes a sense of their freedom from concern or constraint.
When the boy-child was younger, fantasy games formed a huge part of his everyday play. Like many children, he loved to create forts out of chairs and blankets, turn cardboard boxes into spaceships, dress up and invent imaginary friends. In his case they were imaginary older siblings, which, for a mother struggling with infertility, was pretty tough to deal with at times.
Incredibly inventive, he was constantly making things. Lego and building blocks were indispensable in building props for his, often quite complex, games. Cardboard sheets were sellotaped and stapled into cars, aeroplanes and once, a huge aircraft carrier (and I mean huge).
Items he wanted but didn’t have were improvised. As a two year old, he made a skateboard out of cardboard and spent hours “doing tricks” on it (I have video footage of this, just waiting until his first commercial skate movie comes out). At pre-school he persuaded one of the teachers to spend a session helping him build a guitar out of cardboard boxes and cylinders, and his first “iPod” was made out of stapled construction paper with a carefully hand-drawn screen.
There was no definite end to this phase, but I suspect that the beginning of the end was primary school. Whereas his Montessori preschool positively encouraged fantasy plan and creativity, his school did not. Nor did many of his new playmates seem to want to involve themselves in the elaborate dressing-up games.
Basically, he began to notice what other children said and did a lot more and he learned to care … specifically to care what other people thought of him. With that came a diminished capacity to be carefree – instead the key-word became cool.
The boy-child is now 15 and, I think, pretty comfortable in his own skin. He has at times shown tremendous courage – standing up for what he believes in and taking teasing and occasional cyber-nastiness very much in his stride. He seems to have a strong sense of who he is and is willing to go out into the world saying “this is me.”
Of course, that doesn’t stop him choosing his clothing, haircut and shoes according to the “fashion” determined by his peer group, nor rolling his eyes when I suggest something that is “just so uncool.” But in general, I think he has both the ability and the will to think for himself.
But he is no longer carefree.
I’m posting these photos of my beautiful child to remind him how awesome he is; and in the hope that he will continue to grow his sense of self and one day be happy to put the fairy wings back on, tune the cardboard guitar and take off into space with Nick, Jessica (the imaginary siblings) and – his companion in many adventures – Wham the wonder dog (who is very real, only not a real dog).
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