The Children of Mars

The Children of Mars is drawn from a photographer’s discarded archive consisting of thousands of negatives of child portraits, likely taken in the London area during the 1960s and 70s. Children in the photographs would have witnessed the first travels into space and are the first generation of the space age, the same generation I am a part of. Like myself, these children may have dreamt of the future through science fiction and science fact, while gazing to the stars.

With the passage of time, names of the sitters in these photographs have been lost. We no longer know who these children are. With no identity, the faces within the portraits have faded and lost meaning to all who can’t identify them. The clothing and surroundings however, ground the images in time. These lost children have been reduced to representations of a group from an era. They are forever children of the photographic universe.

Infographics often use circles to represent the head or face of a person, an act of neutralising the human form to a universal representation. For me, this archive of discarded portraits lost of identity approach a similar neutral representation. By replacing the face with an infographic-like circle, they still form the function of a portrait, though one that like the infographic has been left open.

To make the alteration, head areas are physically removed with a surgical cut away; an accidental echo of silhouette portrait cuttings popular just prior to the invention of portrait photography. (I am not altering or destroying the only portrait of the sitter. Additional untouched views of each child still exist). A circle is suspended across the cut away void with transparent sticky tape that frequently picks up dust and fingerprints during the assemblage. These accidents integrate and become a part of the image as the negative is printed, accentuating the materiality of these past photographs. This purposefully physical intervention, avoiding the use of digital imaging, maintains the portraits within the pre-digital medium these representations were frozen in. 

These lost children of the early space age, photographically frozen in their youth have become a kind of time traveller. They will never age and will forever gaze to the stars and travel into the future.

An article about the project that was published in Adore Noire Magazine in 2018.