Background to the project: I began to notice how children today spent so much more time indoors and I began to think about how this restricts children's play, limits their freedom of movement and constrains their understanding of the environment and social world outside the home.
I started to research the ideas of fear and control in childhood and about balancing protecting children with allowing them some agency over their own affairs.I wanted to explore this idea in my work and the best place was to start at home, photographing my family and friends children.
Gallery Wall Text:
The Shrinking Horizons of Childhood
Mike O’Toole’s part fictional part autobiographic series explores the tensions and culture of fear surrounding childhood. The children seem to be wavering between being objects of voyeuristic observation and willingly acting out roles in some vague performance.
The Shrinking Horizons of Childhood deploys the aesthetic of confinement, contrasting the supposedly safe indoor space and the vibrating light coming through the windows posing no apparent danger, but still inaccessible. Surrounded by intangible, derealized images of nature reflected on the windows, the children come across as over-protected, locked in from whatever “might happen” outside and at the same time posing a threat to the established mechanics of society just by being out and about.
The photographic image functions an imaginary documentary, less preoccupied with reality than with fiction, echoing the essentially representable, imaginary reality learned from books and the internet the children tend to take for granted in their forced spiritual disconnection, and the socially imposed collective narratives of childhood, too vividly imprinted in their parents’ minds.