The Children of Mars

The Children of Mars was born from a photographer’s discarded archive of thousands of negatives of child portraits. These portraits, likely captured in the London area during the 1960s and 70s, depict children who, like me, are part of the first generation of the space age. We all shared a common fascination with the future, often inspired by science fiction and the real-life advancements in space exploration that we witnessed. This shared experience, this common thread, makes these portraits so compelling.

As time has passed, the identities of the children in these photographs have faded into obscurity. Without identity, the faces within the portraits have 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 a person’s head or face, neutralising the human form to a universal representation. For me, this archive of discarded portraits lost of identity approaches 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.

The alteration of these portraits is a purposefully physical process, a deliberate avoidance of digital imaging. The head areas within the negative are physically removed with a surgical cut away, a technique reminiscent of silhouette portrait cuttings popular just before the invention of photography. A circle is then suspended across the void with transparent sticky tape. Dust and fingerprints accumulate along the tape during assemblage, the process, and the passage of time, becoming a part of the image when it is printed. The printed intervention of the negative transports the image of the past into the present, from a portrait of someone situated in a moment to a picture representing a person of an era. The work embraces the materiality of the era of film and negatives, allowing us to feel the presence of the past.

These 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 at the stars as they travel into the future.

 

"", exhibition view by William Mokrynski

Featured in Adore Noir

Adore Noire, 44,  June 2018. “An Interview with William Mokrynski”

A PDF of the article can be viewed here.

Integrity of the Focal Plane, The Minories Gallery, Colchester, UK, 2020

The Children of Mars was born from a photographer’s discarded archive of thousands of negatives of child portraits. These portraits, likely captured in the London area during the 1960s and 70s, depict children who, like me, are part of the first generation of the space age. We all shared a common fascination with the future, often inspired by science fiction and the real-life advancements in space exploration that we witnessed. This shared experience, this common thread, makes these portraits so compelling.

As time has passed, the identities of the children in these photographs have faded into obscurity. Without identity, the faces within the portraits have 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 a person’s head or face, neutralising the human form to a universal representation. For me, this archive of discarded portraits lost of identity approaches 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.

 

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The alteration of these portraits is a purposefully physical process, a deliberate avoidance of digital imaging. The head areas within the negative are physically removed with a surgical cut away, a technique reminiscent of silhouette portrait cuttings popular just before the invention of photography. A circle is then suspended across the void with transparent sticky tape. Dust and fingerprints accumulate along the tape during assemblage, the process, and the passage of time, becoming a part of the image when it is printed. The printed intervention of the negative transports the image of the past into the present, from a portrait of someone situated in a moment to a picture representing a person of an era. The work embraces the materiality of the era of film and negatives, allowing us to feel the presence of the past.

These 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 at the stars as they travel into the future.

"", exhibition view by William Mokrynski

Featured in Adore Noir

An article about The Children of Mars appeared in Issue 44 of Adore Noire, June 2018

A PDF of the article can be viewed here.