Childhood is a very fragile and important time in the development of every person.
Everything that happens in early childhood matters. The combination of good and bad experiences all help form the child into the adult they become.
Children depend on adults from birth until they are themselves adults. Neglect and abuse at the early developmental stage is can be the greatest harm a child suffers.
Even a single message of rejection or a lone episode of emotional abuse can have an impact on the psyche of a child. Many adults still carry the scars of their childhood, which prevents them from leading happy, healthy and productive lives.
Coping mechanisms for young children often involve role play. From a very early age young children play all day. This is how they start to make sense of the world around them. When they are having fun, learning is natural and easy. Play-based learning frequently means pretending and role-playing. Using props and costumes, they explore real life or imaginary worlds. This imaginative play aids not only intellectual development, but fosters empathy and social skills. They can safely try on other identities, and feel what it is like to be someone else -- mom and dad, everyday figures like police officers, and superheroes and princesses. Pretending helps them explore the unknown and offers a safety net, allowing them to take risks. Many abused children go through role-play therapy in their recovery process, allowing them to feel less like a victim by giving them a sense of control over their lives.
Playing with dolls and teddy bears allows children to form an attachment that is an extension of themselves. It is often the first attachment after the one they have with their mother. To children, these objects are real, and they learn to negotiate with a “being” that has different thoughts and feelings from themselves. Many adults still have these early toys, so real and important are they that getting rid of them would be like killing a trusted friend.
When adults reminisce about their childhood, it is often a combination of these two polar opposite experiences that stand out most clearly. Dressing up in a costume and pretending to be a superhero, or playing with a treasured toy received as a birthday or Christmas gift, are often their happiest memories. Any traumatic experience, whether at home or school, is often the painful, embarrassing memory, still fresh after many years. There may not leave physical scars, but the internal ones are surely there.
My photographs capture these moments, both good and bad, that make up everyone’s childhood memories. Even dire circumstances, like poverty and abuse, do not stop children from escaping into an imaginary world of play.