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The Shrinking Horizons of Childhood

The Shrinking Horizons of Childhood is a project about both childhood and nature. Children today are spending less time outside exploring the natural world due to safety fears, increasing urbanization and computers and phones commanding their attention. Richard Louv an American writer and campaigner for the outdoors, coined the phrase “Nature Deficit”. Apart from the perceived dangers for children outside, children themselves are being seen as a “threat” to society by playing football in the streets or simply being out and about. We bring adult ideas of how children should be, control their activities and over schedule their lives insofar as there is little agency or autonomy for children themselves, in short we don’t trust children. We keep them “safe” in their glass boxes like exotic birds from the rainforest. One child told me that nature outside doesn’t look as colourful as it does on TV and that everything outside is too far away.

It took me a long while to find a visual vocabulary for the project as I wanted to somehow bring the outdoors inside, so I hit on the idea of reflections and windows in the end. The problem with reflections is that if you can eliminate your own reflection, you sometimes can’t see anything inside. Also I needed to find windows with something of interest outside to reflect, at the right moment when I would get some low sunlight. To me, what’s interesting is the children are alone indoors but at the same time connected to the world with their phones and screens. Shot on my RZ67 camera with colour negative film and did very little work on the images in photoshop.

Mike O'Toole
www.mikeotoole.com