Art / Culture / Digital

Revisiting Childhood

By: Mariko Turk

Take a look at two recent art projects that use digital technology to see childhood in new ways.

Chino Otsuka’s Imagine Finding Me

Imagine Finding Me
1982 and 2005, Paris, France

Photographer Chino Otsuka traveled to a lot of places when she was a kid–Paris, Beijing, Tokyo, London.  She was photographed in these places, doing many things, from the mundane to the touristy to the cultural: showing off a muddy snowman, standing in Tiananmen Square, posing in a kimono.

In Imagine Finding Me, Otsuka revisits these childhood photographs.  Literally.  Using digital manipulation, Otsuka places images of herself as an adult into photos of her childhood self (that’s her, in the black boots.  That’s also her, eating the baguette).  The result is stunning.  As Otsuka explains: “The digital process becomes a tool, almost like a time machine, as I’m embarking on the journey to where I once belonged and at the same time becoming a tourist in my own history.”

There is indeed a sense that something magical is happening in these new, old photographs made possible by Otsuka’s digital time machine.  Each one holds the tension between past and present, child and adult, closeness and distance, within an image that, on its surface, appears quite unremarkable.

View more photographs from this project and read more about Otsuka’s work here.

Rino Stefano Tagliafierro’s “Beauty”

William Adolphe Bouguereau’s “The Nut Gatherers” (1882) is one of many paintings made to move in Tagliafierro’s short film.

While Otsuka’s project is very personal, exploring and re-imagining her own past, Italian director Rino Stefano Tagliafierro uses digital technology to re-imagine famous paintings of the past.  His short film, “Beauty,” animates well-known works from Caravaggio, Millais, Rembrandt, Vermeer, and others, representing artistic styles from “the renaissance to the symbolism of the late 1800s, through Mannerism, Pastoralism, Romanticism and Neo-classicism.”

According to an English translation of the film’s manifesto on Open Culture, “Beauty” expresses beauty as a “fleeting moment of happiness and the inexhaustible fullness of life, doomed from the start to a redemptive yet tragic end.”  This idea of beauty is “brought back to the expressive force of gestures that [Tagliafierro] springs from the immobility of canvas, animating a sentiment lost to the fixedness” of the works.

Those who study children’s literature and culture will be unsurprised to find that many of the paintings featured in this digital animation of works from the Western canon are of children and young people. I recently read Anne Higonnet’s wonderful book Pictures of Innocence: The History and Crisis of Ideal Childhood, which examines changing images of children and childhood from the 18th to the late 20th century.  Higonnet’s book contains plenty of paintings of the Romantic child (pure, innocent, angelic) as rendered by 18th and 19th century artists who “excelled in child genre painting,” like Sir John Everett Millais, Sir Joshua Reynolds, Thomas Gainsborough, and William-Adolphe Bourguereau (Bourguereau’s work is featured heavily in “Beauty”).

In Tagliafierro’s short film, moving pictures of innocence replace the still ones we are used to seeing, and the result is quite beautiful indeed.  Watch “Beauty” here.

Sources:

Higonnet, Anne. Pictures of Innocence: The History and Crisis of Ideal Childhood. London: Thames and Hudson, 1998. 33.

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