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FULL OF GRACE by Ray Merritt


A Journey Through the History of Childhood

edited by Ray Merritt

Pub Date: Jan. 1st, 2007
ISBN: 978-1-57687-329-8

A rangy, gripping collection of childhood photographs complemented by a modest, interpretive text.

Merritt arranges the photographs chronologically–from the mid-19th century to contemporary work, and from birth to teens–and by themes: romantic, innocent, marginalized, devastated; children animated, delighted, assailed and violated. Early on, works by such photographers as Julia Margaret Cameron, Lewis Carroll, Jacob Riis, Alfred Stieglitz and Lewis Hine take center stage, and their images capture the natural, blissful, poetic and unvarnished grace of childhood. Sadly, so too come images of exploitation, poverty and disease, and shocking portraits of child labor. Most of the photographs feel exotic, as of a world we barely know or remember–whether it’s the ordinariness of picnic scenes or cheerleaders in mid-air; the challenging photojournalism of Robert Capa and Margaret Bourke-White; Sandy Skoglund’s surreal tableaux; Lucien Clergue’s weird inversions; or the disarming erotics of Sally Mann and Helmut Newton. Merritt’s unobtrusive narrative provides historical, political and social context while allowing the reader to foster personal relationships with the images. He also scatters handfuls of pithy comments throughout the work, putting yet more force behind the photographs’ bite, as with this quote from Aldous Huxley: "Children are remarkable for their intelligence and ardor, for their curiosity, their intolerance of shams, the charity and ruthlessness of their vision." These traits are all on display here, as witnessed through the growth and maturation of photography.

Highly emotive images of childhood.