Friday, March 16, 2012
“The Shrinking Horizons of Childhood”
O’Toole questions the role of nature as a traditional place of sanctuary or as a place to find relaxation, when today the new sanctuary is the indoors, where children watch TV or computer screens. The new “Ideal environment” is now the indoors and the virtual, with the result that more and more children understand the natural world only through computer games, the internet and TV. In the developed world, children are becoming more detached from their own environment. In this series we see children alone, either cut off from the outside, or in an awkward embrace with the outdoors.
O’Toole photographed his own children and children of his neighbours and extended family. In most of the photographs the children are presented as “safe” in their glass boxes, like exotic birds from the rainforest. Although the environment is no more dangerous than at any other time in history, parents worry about what ‘might happen’ outdoors. Moreover, children are seen as separate from nature, and a ‘threat’ to society by playing football in the streets or by simply being out and about in the landscape.Our ideas about Nature like our ideas about childhood are always changing.