09.07.2013 ioana popescu
A,E,I,O,U, Get out, you!
The Image Archive of MTR (IAMTR) owns a great collection of images with children, from the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century, rural and urban areas. The more than obvious interest of the then-photographers to capture the children in snapshots could be explained by:
1. The beauty, the purity and the spontaneity of the small ones; it is no secret that the easiness in front of the camera wanes with age.
2. The presence of the children in the photographs announces the health and the future youthfulness of the people, with all the hopes that a new beginning instills.
3. Often clothed in Sunday clothes, the child takes on the incredible air of a miniature adult, stiff in the attitude the very garments impose. The way in which - from an early age onwards - the country children and the city children take on different roles, depending on the genre, speaks about the status they will achieve later in society.

The cocoons and the children

The city boys are intellectuals, austere, (almost) gloomy future exponents of authority, bearing artificial stances. The boys of the village seem like they are dressed in their own clothes, wearing gigantic caps, set in an authoritative posture with a dashing foot fixed forward, surrounded by an artificial setting (studio props). They are their parent's pride.

Never alone
In the city, the young mothers hold on and apply - besides the inherited behaviours - the teachings of the books of the prevailing times and fashion. Wherefore the infant is quickly entrusted to an appointed caring - grandmother, nanny or to a nursery. In this manner, the second severing of ties takes place after the rupture the mother and child experience at the infant's birth. And, maybe, this partially explains the crises and the psychic sufferings of both of them during their lives.
In the village, the baby has always remained organically attached to the mother and has participated in this way, less or more passive, in the women's household chores, and traveled anywhere that was needed together with the mother. Paradoxically, this permanent assurance gave him the authonomy and the social utility from early on.

Knowledge exercises
At the city's festivities, birthdays or name days, the props have long become universal: the annual anniversary cake bought in Bucharest is made out of the same ingredients and looks the same as the ones that are bought from other parts of Europe; the candles, with bi-coloured channels in pink or light blue - badges of this sort; all come from every corner of the earth. Thus the reaction of identity demarcation - introducing ethno models in the urban areas - becomes easier to understand

The celebration of the game

We will become what we were and even more
The portraits of the prosperous city children, which often show the children posing in adult postures, and the necessary props claimed by the social status (the lofty armchair, the little hat etc.) are typical for the first half of the 20th century - in which the well-being and the social status that were inherited are announced and displayed from the early phase of childhood.

photo images from aimtr and the private collections of the volunteers of this project

This is a fragment from the book Coconi și copii (Cocoons and Children) by Ioana Popescu, published by Martor Publishing House.

More images in the GF ARCHIVE
ioana popescuis ethnologist, Doctor of Philosophy, and Director of Research at the Romanian Peasant Museum in Bucharest.
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