Important Announcement

Well, we continue to go through growing pains.  As mentioned earlier, it made sense given the volume of this site that we use a dedicated server.  This has been done, but with this new level of control and freedom comes more responsibility.

In addition, our internet host has had to pull back from his traditional responsibilities due to long term personal issues that are preventing him from focusing on his work.  That means we need to handle things professionally and hire someone to take care of the ongoing “hardening” (that’s the industry term meaning to protect the site from attack and contamination) of Pigtails in Paint.  I am in that process right now and the recommendations of trusted readers and associates are appreciated and will be taken into account.

As some of you have noticed, one of our readers has inadvertently tracked some malware onto this site.  The result is that when you click on something, you may get an unwanted tab selling you something or warning you that your computer is compromised.  It is still safe to visit the site, but until this is resolved, it would be prudent to keep an eye out whenever you click on something.  If an unwanted tab comes up, close it immediately. This announcement will remain here on the top page until the malware has been purged and we will temporarily refrain from publishing new posts because there is a remote possibility that we may have to restart from a backed-up archive.

After the immediate issues have been addressed, the posts will continue and I will be learning the ropes of what it means to be an owner of an internet server.

Thank you for all your support and hopefully, soon, we can get back to the business of researching and presenting interesting new material.  Best wishes, -Ron, Editor-in-Chief, Pigtails in Paint.

You can continue to contact me with leads, suggestions and questions at ron_at_pigtails@yahoo.com.

Potent Personalities: Sally Mann

Mann’s challenging images of childhood and, by extension, motherhood have become ubiquitous. This post has been long in coming because of the nagging question: How will I ever do justice to this artist’s work? Finally, the release of Hold Still: A Memoir with Photographs, published by Little, Brown and Co., this May forced my hand and convinced me that I could procrastinate no further. The book is the kind of self-examination that would have made Socrates proud and an enviable genealogical legacy to her entire family.

Sally Mann (neé Munger) was born in 1951 in Rockbridge County, Virginia. Her father, a family physician from an established Texan family, was educated in the North where he met Sally’s mother. This kind of heritage would almost inevitably make Sally a fish out of water in social circles but impress upon her an appreciation for the land itself. She took a serious interest in photography when at The Putney School in Vermont which her two brothers had attended before her. Her father introduced her to the arts and she has fond memories of several books he shared with her. One was The Family of Man (1955) and on only her second roll of film, she shot her first nudes in 1969, inspired by Wynn Bullock’s Child in Forest. For the most part, Sally bares all in her book, but out of respect for one of her subjects who now has a prominent position in a major corporation, she did not reproduce it.

Wynn Bullock - Child in Forest (1951)

Wynn Bullock – Child in Forest (1951)

Two films were produced about Sally, both directed by Steven Cantor. The first, Blood Ties: The Life and Work of Sally Mann (1994), was shot and produced during the furor over the exhibitions of her child nudes and the second, What Remains (2005), gives a much more comprehensive picture of her inspirations and body of work. When I personally learned of the artist’s work, I was naturally impressed by the raw and pristine imagery, but after seeing these films, I admit to falling in love with the humanity of this imaginative and tortured soul. We begin to get an insight into Sally’s attitude about nudity by the fact that in her first two years of life, she obstinately refused to wear clothes. In fact, the assumption that nudity was an integral part of everyday childhood caused her to overstate in interviews the number of photos that existed of her in a state of undress. After a careful review, she was compelled to amend the record. Some of the photographs of young Sally reveal some of the striking characteristics to be seen later in her own children.

Steven Cantor - What Remains (2005) (1)

Steven Cantor – What Remains (2005) (1)

After high school, she opted to attend Bennington College, deciding that she was not cut out for one of the more urban schools. She met Larry Mann during a Christmas visit home in 1969 and they were married six months later. During their early years together, they traveled throughout Europe on a thin shoestring budget, much to the consternation of Larry’s socially ambitious parents. And even after visiting some of the most beautiful places in Europe, the couple felt nothing held a candle to Rockbridge County so they moved there for good in 1973. Sally shares a rich tapestry of family history including how her father first bought the land and how she later bought out her brothers’ shares so that it could become the Mann estate.

It seems remarkable in retrospect, but at first, Sally did not consider her children suitable subjects for art photography. She did the usual photos that parents are expected to make, but they were snapshots and not done with an artist’s eye. Sally has always respected the presence of serendipity in the creative process and in 1985, one of her biggest took place. Emmett, Sally’s eldest child, was born in 1980 and then Jessie came in 1981. With the birth of Virginia, she fancied that she should capture the event on film. Unfortunately, the exposure time needed to compensate for the poor lighting meant that Virginia’s entry into the world was a blur—”a dud”. A few months later, Sally took what she considered her first good family picture, Damaged Child, of Jessie’s swollen face from insect bites. She got the idea from the title of a Dorothea Lange photo Damaged Child, Shacktown,Elm Grove, Oklahoma (1936). As she continued her efforts in this vein, she began to realize that she was blessed with children of potent character. Even so, none of this would have materialized without an attitude shift. It is perhaps within the most mundane material that we find the sublime.

Sally Mann - Damaged Child (1984)

Sally Mann – Damaged Child (1984)

Sally’s family photographs are a mixture of spontaneity and deliberate composition. For example, here we can see her directing Virginia to get one of her shots.

Steven Cantor - Blood Ties (1994) (1)

Steven Cantor – Blood Ties (1994) (1)

Sally Mann - At Warm Springs (1991)

Sally Mann – At Warm Springs (1991)

On the other hand, when she sees something she just has to capture she asks the child to hold still until she can get her camera set up. These are precarious times because as time passes, some of the spontaneity is lost and the strain of holding the pose adds to the intensity of the posture and facial expression. In one of Sally’s favorite images, she had the camera nearby and was able to shoot The Perfect Tomato. The strange title was the product of haste; the tomatoes were the only thing in focus in the shot. The lens flare was a happy accident that gave the subject an angelic quality. In Blood Ties, Jessie described her memory of how it happened.

Steven Cantor - Blood Ties (1994) (2)

Steven Cantor – Blood Ties (1994) (2)

Sally Mann - The Perfect Tomato (1990)

Sally Mann – The Perfect Tomato (1990)

In 2000, Melissa Harris interviewed Jessie Mann who was preparing for her freshman year in college. Among other things, she spoke about the nature of her relationship with her mother.

When we were taking pictures, it created a relationship with Mom that’s very different from other people’s relationships—much more powerful…Because there already is a very powerful bond, then add to that the bond between artist and subject…On top of being our mother, she became a whole lot more. So that made our relationship stronger, but of course more complicated. -Jessie Mann, 2000 (Aperture No. 162, Winter 2001)

The combination of an artist’s eye and a desire to get the image just right created a kind of ambivalence within the family. On the one hand, it is flattering to get so much attention, but getting the image right sometimes meant a seemingly interminable effort. In the case of the image The Last Time Emmett Modeled Nude, 1987, when she first saw Emmett in the water, she did the usual and asked him to hold still. Shot after shot did not come out to Sally’s satisfaction and over the next 7 or 8 days, Emmett patiently followed his mother’s instructions until everything was right: the light, the reflection in the water, the eye level, Emmett’s position in the water, Emmett’s position in the frame and the right pose and facial expression. The title, which later came to have a double meaning, was meant to express the exasperation after such an ordeal. Several versions were reprinted in Hold Still to illustrate this process.

For the most part, Larry and the kids were good sports and for that reason, Sally has to give equal credit to her subjects for the successful collaboration. But sometimes, as Emmett remarked, whenever one of them noticed that look in their mother’s eyes—when she suddenly “saw” a picture—if one was not in the mood for another photo session, one had better make himself scarce. Or if there was no way out of it, the kids could torment their mother in more subtle ways. The top shot of all three kids appeared on the cover of Immediate Family, but the bottom illustrates one of the variations where the girls have softer facial expressions. Emmett confessed later that during this shoot, he was moving his body ever so slightly forward and back to keep his mother from getting the perfect focus.

Sally Mann - Emmett, Jessie and Virginia (1989) (and variant)

Sally Mann – Emmett, Jessie and Virginia (1989) (and variant)

Despite these battles of will, the family members recognize that Sally brings out something special in the seemingly ordinary.

…She sees the world in images. -Larry Mann (What Remains, 2005)

It’s almost like she sees something happening and she just thinks to herself, “I know that this is special—what I’m seeing right here.” -Emmett Mann (What Remains, 2005)

When you’re around an artist all the time, you’re always reminded of what’s beautiful and what’s special, and you can’t forget it. -Jessie Mann (Aperture, No. 162, Winter 2001)

I think what makes Mom different is that she can look at the same object that I would consider pretty commonplace and ordinary, but she’ll make a print of it and suddenly I’ll see the beauty of it. -Virginia Mann (What Remains, 2005)

When Immediate Family was published in 1992, Sally assumed it would be greeted with moderate acclaim just like her previous work, At Twelve: Portraits of Young Women (1988).

Sally Mann - At Twelve (c1984)

Sally Mann – At Twelve (c1984)

The family was not prepared for the explosive sales and the notoriety that came. Listening to the detractors, one might come away with the impression that Sally published the work without regard to the feelings and reputations of her family, but this was far from the truth. The children were consulted about their favorites and which images they objected to. Never was nudity at issue and Larry mediated to make sure the children were not just trying to please their mother. For example, Emmett vetoed an image (Emmett Asleep, 1985) because, at the time, he was pretending to be Bugs Bunny and was wearing white stockings on his arms. Given his age, he was concerned about looking like a dork. Another candid image was of Virginia entitled Pissing in the Wind. Now that they are grown up, they can appreciate these images for what they are, candid moments of family life and these two examples were reprinted in Hold Still. Sometimes Sally censored herself as in The Bent Ear. With Jessie’s thin figure and the strain of waiting for the camera to be set up, Sally thought the picture made her look like a torture victim and was simply too painful to look at.

Sally Mann - The Bent Ear (1989)

Sally Mann – The Bent Ear (1989)

When the letters came in, Sally was surprised at the range of comments. In her characteristic fastidiousness, she sorted them into For, Against and What the Fuck? Although a sense of humor was undoubtedly helpful, the one ray of light was that more than half the letters were positive. It is tempting for visually literate people to write off any negative comments as narrow-minded and not worthy of acknowledgment. Whatever the interpretation, what was happening was a kind of culture clash. Nudity seems to be a natural mode of expression for the liberal-minded proponents of counterculture; and just as there are clothing-optional parks and beaches, there are bound to be many households that observe this custom as well.

The real breakthrough in Hold Still is that Sally makes the context of the land paramount in the interpretation of the pictures. Within this context, these images make perfect sense and without it, they seem bizarre at first glance. The land that the Manns owned was a secluded plot surrounded, unusually, on three sides by the Maury River. Even in the most difficult of times, the family felt safe there away from the madness and ridicule of society—without radios, without television and without computers.

How natural was it in that situation, to allow our children to run naked? Or, put another way, how bizarre would it have been to insist on bathing suits for their river play, which began after breakfast and often continued long after dark, when all three would would dive like sleek otters for glow sticks thrown in the pool under the still-warm cliffs? -Sally Mann (Hold Still, 2015)

For the most part, Sally would avoid looking at the almost endless barrage of reviews. She was an artist, after all, and would not want her art to be tainted by the influx of public opinion. But occasionally, something would come across her radar and one review in particular was devastating in its thoughtlessness and self-righteousness. It was an editorial by Raymond Sokolov, a food critic of all things, published in the Wall Street Journal in February 1991. Ostensibly about government funding of the arts, it took the opportunity to ridicule and mutilate an image published on the cover of the Fall 1990 issue (No. 121) of Aperture. Virginia happened to see it and was very upset about being “crossed out”. For a time, she became extremely self-conscious about her body and even wanted to wear shorts and a shirt in the bathtub the following night. In an attempt at a kind of psychotherapy, a photo shoot was conducted to make a light-hearted mockery of the censorship.

Virginia at 4 (1989) ; Sokolov Article, Wall Street Journal (1991); Virginia's Letter to the Editor (1991)

Virginia at 4 (1989) ; Sokolov Article, Wall Street Journal (1991); Virginia’s Letter to the Editor (1991)

Sally Mann - (Untitled) (1991)

Sally Mann – (Untitled) (1991)

To Sally, her family photographs were partly therapeutic. She would take every mishap and exaggerate it into a worst-case scenario to help alleviate her own anxieties about motherhood and as a kind of sympathetic magic to prevent the worst from actually happening. Whether this actually worked is a matter of perspective. Both Jessie and Emmett are only alive today because of stokes of good fortune, Jessie having been born premature and in guarded condition for an extended period and Emmett surviving a car impact that ought to have killed him.

Sally Mann - Jessie's Cut (1985)

Sally Mann – Jessie’s Cut (1985)

As statistics will bear out, whenever there is a large group of people, a tiny percent are bound to be weirdos. Two particular individuals stand out in Sally’s memory and their tales are told in the book. A few years into their marriage, Larry’s mother, who lived in Connecticut, murdered her husband and then killed herself. Because the couple was respected in the community, the police did not really conduct a full investigation and quickly closed the case. Sally fancied she’d investigate further on her own and called the police to request a copy of the case file. Strangely, the police had the file readily at hand. The reason was that they were receiving strange letters from someone in Richmond with fanciful suggestions of foul play. It turned out to be the mother of a disgruntled artist, envious of Sally’s fame. The other was a man who became love-sick for the Mann children. He would track down family members, neighbors and institutions for any scrap of information about them such as birth certificates, school events and grades. The FBI became involved but informed the family that since this man did not make any threats and had not trespassed onto the property, nothing could be done. The family decided not to go public with this information until now based on the notion that they should not dignify the efforts of this man. Ironically, in their diligence to keep a wary eye out, this man came up in family conversations more often than blood kin. In a sense, he got his most fervent wish as his specter was a constant presence in the house.

Perhaps the most hurtful type of negative criticism was that Sally was a bad mother. This put her in an intractable position as no mother is perfect, but with the public scrutiny, every little thing would be interpreted as some shortcoming. As mentioned before, mother and children are all strong-willed people and there were the usual conflicts as is bound to happen in any family. Sally was apparently not physically affectionate with her children and so there are signs that they sought other forms of comfort. Jessie, for example, developed a drinking problem which she has been managing. After reflection, the children now recognize that their mother expressed her love through her art and gifted them with a sense of their beauty. For this reason, each of the children are consistently very protective of their mother and defend her as necessary. And Sally has her regrets as well, like the time Jessie refused to eat her flounder and was made to sit there all night until she finished it.

Sally Mann - (Untitled) (c1986)

Sally Mann – (Untitled) (c1986)

Fame is a two-edged sword, but it would be unfair to blame its negative effect on an artist who could never have anticipated it. She reasonably assumed that quality work would eventually get recognized by cultured people—but slowly. Sally’s notoriety sometimes interfered with schoolyard relationships because other kids would tease them or other parents objected to their mother’s work. With this kind of fame, what room is there for the children to find their own place in the world? Once Emmett and Jessie were in college, they started talking to each other about their childhood in a kind of exclusive support group; who else would understand their experiences? And should they parlay their mother’s fame to their own benefit? Another effect of all this attention is that one can get used to it. In the film What Remains, Jessie talks about being a kind of modeling junkie. Whenever someone wanted to do a photo shoot of her, she just couldn’t say no. On the other hand, Virginia, being much younger, had a slightly different perspective, hoping simply to fit in and get on with her life.

All the while, in the background of all this drama, was the land. One can see Sally’s interest in the family photographs wane as the children became smaller and smaller in the background of these timeless landscapes.

Sally Mann - Sempervirens "Stricta" (1995)

Sally Mann – Sempervirens “Stricta” (1995)

A theme that permeates Sally’s retrospective is death. She learned that her father collected art that featured portrayals of death and analyzing Southern culture, Sally feels there is always an undercurrent of death, as though it were a familiar companion. This is an understandable reflection of all the blood shed on battlefields and the brutal use of Africans and their descendants in the building of the South.

There were two events in Sally’s life that precipitated two of her projects. The first was the death of one of her beloved greyhounds, Eva. She could not bear to bury her and so, over time, she studied her pet’s decomposing remains. Even the smallest fragment of bone seemed to evoke memories of Eva. She became fascinated about what happens to bodies when they decay and was given permission to photograph bodies at a facility where they study decaying bodies in the open. The results of her work appeared in the book, What Remains (2003). The other event was the killing of an escaped convict on the family compound. When the authorities finally cleared out, she stared at that place contemplating the dichotomy of death and renewal. While the land indiscriminately recycles, the memories of death linger in the writings and minds of human beings. This prompted a visit to the great battlefields of the South to capture this sentiment on film, culminating in the book Deep South (2005). And as if there were not already enough presence of decay in Sally’s life, Larry was diagnosed with a form of muscular dystrophy in which the muscles waste away. Fortunately, Larry had a well-developed physique to start with so it would take longer for the condition to be debilitating. For most men, this kind of indignity would cause him to hide his disease, but instead Larry has generously allowed Sally to photograph him and his condition as time passes in a project calls ‘Proud Flesh’.

Another expression of Sally’s fascination with the past is that she processes her own negatives and has practiced a number of antiquarian techniques. She likes the feel of handling the materials, much as Julia Margaret Cameron did. Also like Cameron, she welcomes the serendipitous flaws that are rejected in a professional process: dust getting on the plate or laminate peeling on the negative in just the right place. Using older techniques also means longer exposure times and in her series, ‘Faces’, she asked her grown up children to hold still for various 3-minute exposures. The flaw in this image gives the impression of soapy tears.

Sally Mann - Faces No. 10 (2004)

Sally Mann – Faces No. 10 (2004)

A manifestation of the superficiality of society is that if a gallery can’t make money on art, they aren’t interested. Sally was disheartened that no New York gallery would exhibit ‘Faces’ and she later found an excellent venue in Washington DC which made it possible for friends and neighbors to view it. This project also became a kind of personal discipline. Sally admits to being a nervous and frenetic person by nature and so has challenged herself to produce self-portraits that require her to hold still for 6 minutes while she exposes the plate.  This development is also a result of the fact that her children are no longer on hand to model

Steven Cantor - What Remains (2005) (2)

Steven Cantor – What Remains (2005) (2)

Having both Southern and Yankee blood, Sally was exposed to the best and worst of both cultures. She embraced the philosophy behind the Civil Rights movement, but she herself was raised by a black woman she knew as Gee-Gee. The day-to-day management of the household was done by this woman and she made sure Sally was fed, dressed and ready for school. Sally’s contemplation of the role of black people in the South made her wonder about this alien lifestyle and upbringing—so utterly different from her own. In an effort to explore this “otherness”, she recently embarked on a project to photograph the bodies of black men. To bring out the truth in her subjects, she keeps things as anonymous as possible. She does not ask them about their lives and she does not share any particulars about herself except what she requires of them. After about an hour, they part company.

From time to time, Sally—sometimes with the kids—would review the family photographs. She shares an interesting theory about the interplay of memory and photography. Not really remembering her own childhood, she has relied on photographs and other artifacts to reveal her own past. It is as though the ability to record things photographically diminishes our capacity to remember. Historians have noted something similar after the invention of mechanical printing and the development of popular literacy centuries ago. In her Aperture interview, Jessie expressed a sense of disembodiment about her old pictures, a feeling that they are not really of her. This makes some sense since we are not the same people we were as children and here the images are not just family snapshots, but partly constructions from their mother’s imagination. An anecdote about Jessie takes place when she was dressing for an exhibition of the the family pictures. She realized that a sleeveless top she was considering would expose her chest if she raised her arms and so she rejected the garment. A friend remarked how odd it was that she should be concerned since there would be numerous photos showing her chest at the show. Then Jessie responded, “Yes, but that is not my chest. Those are photographs.” Children can indeed distinguish between the production of an image and the real thing.

Sally Mann - White Skates (1990)

Sally Mann – White Skates (1990)

Sally Mann - Holding the Weasel (1989)

Sally Mann – Holding the Weasel (1989)

Many today might feel that Sally Mann and her family have been vindicated. They rode the rough waters of celebrity and controversy, the adult children continue to make their way in life and Sally is still pursuing her art. But one unrecognized effect of the thoughtless rhetoric has been that many good family photos have still not reached the public. This subject was discussed in What Remains, but whenever the family mulled over the possibility of another book or exhibition, there was the inevitability of answering the same tiresome questions and they became discouraged. Perhaps someday we will see them when our society respects real artists and galleries regard them as more than just an opportunity to make money.

A favorite image of mine is Steven Cantor’s parting shot in Blood Ties. In it, Virginia is saying that she wishes her mother would take a picture of her right now.

Steven Cantor - Blood Ties (1994) (3)

Steven Cantor – Blood Ties (1994) (3)

Thank you Virginia, Jessie, Emmett, Larry and Sally for your courage, generosity and irrepressible human spirit.  -Ron

Sally Mann photography (official site): some of the unseen family photographs may be coming to light here.

Jessie Mann (official site)

Pigtails posted a this delightfully irreverent image a while back.

An excellent collection of reproductions of Sally Mann’s work were published in a Christie’s catalog for an auction held on October 7, 2009 and copies have been sold on the secondary market.

I have done my best to give a good overview of this artist, with an emphasis on the children, but Mann’s work is such a linchpin to many issues regarding art, child rearing, nudity, psychology, social justice, commerce and privacy that these will have to be discussed in a supplement post later.

The Girl as Unrequited Lover: Ana Torrent, Pt. 3 (El Nido)

This post comprises the third and final entry in our Ana Torrent film series.  Before we begin, I would like to point out that, because the quality of film available to me was relatively poor—bleary, washed out and dim—the stills taken from it are not as good as I would’ve liked.  Nevertheless, I took over 120 stills in all and sifted through them to get what I believe were the finest examples from the bunch.  Anyway . . .

Although El Nido (The Nest) was a contender for Best Foreign Language Film at the 1981 Academy Awards, the Oscar instead went to Moscow Does Not Believe in TearsEl Nido is an odd little film directed by Jaime de Armiñán and is widely considered his best film.  It stars Victor Alterio as an aging but spry widower and the then 13-year-old Ana Torrent as the young girl he becomes infatuated with.  Torrent won Best Actress for her performance at the 1980 Montreal Film Festival, as well she should have.  Though Armiñán lacks the artful flair of Erice or Saura, this was a solidly directed film, and I find it strange that I had never heard of it before, only discovering it when I began to look deeper into the early career of Ana Torrent.  So imagine my surprise when I discovered she had starred in Spain’s answer to Lolita!

The film opens with Alejandro (Alterio), a wealthy and reclusive widower, listening to classical music in his living room and pretending to conduct the orchestra.  We see him first in silhouette; when we first see him in the flesh, he’s riding a horse through the forest.
Again, he seems to be conducting an orchestra, though this time the music is in his head.  Alejandro is something of a dreamer and a rebel, a man who walks to the beat of his own drum, and the drum he hears is distinct in his head.  It isn’t a drum, actually; it is Joseph Haydn’s oratorio The Creation, a piece based on the Book of Genesis and inspired by Milton’s Paradise Lost, a poem that is, in part, about the Fall of Man.  Foreshadowing perhaps?

Jaime de Armiñán - El Nido (1980) (1)

Jaime de Armiñán – El Nido (1980) (1)

Alejandro’s cerebral concert is interrupted by an egg striking his head.  Befuddled as to its origin, he rides away, only to find a red scarf monogrammed with a ‘G’ attached to a tree limb.  Back at home, Al amuses himself by listening to his music and playing chess against a computerized board.  He tells the game, “I see you coming.  But I will not fall into your trap.”  Definitely foreshadowing.  Meanwhile, the scarf still intrigues him.  To whom does it belong?  Amparo, Al’s housekeeper, comes in, interrupting his reverie.  Al has an antagonistic relationship with the woman, who puts up with his moodiness and eccentricities with great forbearance.  The two exchange shouts and insults more often than not.  Al really doesn’t want her there, and only tolerates her presence because she manages the household affairs, leaving him to his daydreams, the only thing that makes him happy since his wife’s demise.  Amparo berates him for letting basic household upkeep slip, using his dead wife’s memory to guilt trip him, but Al is not interested in such things.

Jaime de Armiñán - El Nido (1980) (2)

Jaime de Armiñán – El Nido (1980) (2)

Again Al wanders into the woods, this time finding a note with a feather attached that says, “The goldfinch feather will take you to the great tree. G.”  He can’t help but follow the clue.  His curiosity stoked, he climbs up the remains of the ancient dead tree he frequently visits, only to find another note pinned to the top, again with a feather.  “The jay feather will lead you down the stream. G.”  At the stream, Al finds yet another note and feather, this one stuck to a limb out in the midst of the stream.  Having to traverse the swift waters to get to it, Al is both amused and a little exasperated.  The note reads: “The feather of the hawk will take you to the tower. G.”  Who would go to such trouble to torment the old man so?

Jaime de Armiñán - El Nido (1980) (3)

Jaime de Armiñán – El Nido (1980) (3)

Back at home, Alejandro tries to figure out where the clues came from.  After a lead he’s given by Amparo turns out to be a dead end, he decides to visit his only real friend in town, the local parish priest, Eladio.  Although Al is an atheist with a dim view of religion, and he and the priest often exchange insults, it is clear that the two men are quite fond of each other.  Al brings Eladio a box of chocolates and asks for his help in identifying the handwriting from the notes.  The priest is a scholar and has some knowledge of graphology, among other things.  The priest identifies the writing as that of a young girl, and suggests she is stubborn and uneducated but has some native intelligence, sensitivity, passion and a sense of humor.  These qualities suggest someone who is a good match for Alejandro, if not as a lover then at least as a companion.

The priest also identifies the tower referred to in the final note as the bell tower of his own church.  He and Al decide to climb the tower to look for the next clue.  Here Al wonders why the girl has chosen him.  What exactly does she see in him?  The priest says it’s because he’s a fool and that she’s toying with him for her own amusement.  They find the clue, which says, “Falcon feathers will take you to the performance. G.”  Eladio warns Al that this game could lead to trouble, and informs him that the local school children are putting on a performance of Macbeth.  It seems that Al’s mystery girl may be even younger than he anticipated.

Jaime de Armiñán - El Nido (1980) (4)

Jaime de Armiñán – El Nido (1980) (4)

And here we get our first glimpse of the girl, Goyita, (Ana Torrent), who is portraying Lady Macbeth in the play, a difficult and nuanced part that requires great acting skills.  Al is immediately taken with the girl’s performance even in the rehearsal.  It is evident now that this is no ordinary young girl.  She is precocious, spirited and beautiful.  I must say: how differently Ms. Torrent looks here than she did in her earlier films!  She reminds me a bit of the young Natalie Portman.  As Lady Macbeth, some of her lines are provocative.  “Come to my woman’s breasts and take my milk for gall, you murd’ring ministers,” she says.  These are not words one would ordinarily hear coming from the lips of a middle school-aged child.  Al is a captive audience, and Goyita is, in turn, distracted by Al’s presence to the point where it begins to affect her performance.

Jaime de Armiñán - El Nido (1980) (5)

Jaime de Armiñán – El Nido (1980) (5)

Having been ejected from the rehearsal by the teacher, Al waits for Goyita outside until the rehearsal is over. Their first meeting is in the town square, in the street.  Alejandro walks Goyita home, quoting lines from Macbeth himself.  Meanwhile, Goyita’s teacher spots them walking together and is obviously concerned.  Al—and the audience—finds out here that Goyita is only 13 years old.  No wonder her teacher is worried.  We also learn that Goyita has been aware of Al for years, and it is only recently that she has decided to get his attention, although she did so coyly, through her little game with the notes and feathers.  Isn’t that exactly like something a 13-year-old girl would do?  Usually their affections are reserved for boys much closer to their own age though.

Jaime de Armiñán - El Nido (1980) (6)

Jaime de Armiñán – El Nido (1980) (6)

They soon arrive at Goyita’s home.  It turns out that her father is a policeman.  This certainly complicates things.  Before they part ways, Goyita mentions that she also knew Alejandro’s wife, yet another element that will cement their bond.  And as she is ascending the stairs to her family’s apartment, she whistles.  What do you think the tune is?  None other than Hadyn’s The Creation, of course.  Is it deliberate?  Well, Goyita has said that she knows where Al lives.  It’s possible—even likely—that she’s heard him listening to this same oratorio.  So, it seems she knows very well what she’s doing.  The last thing she does before entering her home is stomp several times on the floor, an act which indicates that, although preternaturally bright and mature, she is still a kid after all.  Kids tend be noisy when they’re happy.  What is the source of Goyita’s joy?

Immediately she is confronted by the police sergeant, who criticizes her for being too loud.  Goyita’s relationship with the stern and unpleasant sergeant is one of mutual dislike and mistrust, as we will see.

Jaime de Armiñán - El Nido (1980) (7)

Jaime de Armiñán – El Nido (1980) (7)

Back at home in his study, Al asks Amparo if anyone has come to visit.  He is eagerly awaiting a visit from his new little friend.  He dials the number of the police station, but when someone answers, Al doesn’t speak, afraid to reveal his identity and why he’s calling.  The officer on the other end hangs up on him.

We cut to Goyita’s home, where her family is eating dinner.  She is in fact the oldest of four children.  Psychologists interested in birth order would suggest this accounts for at least some of Goyita’s high intelligence and maturity.  This theory is, of course, only moderately accepted in the larger mental health community.  Nevertheless, Goyita is a good model for the theory.  During dinner, Goyita’s mother criticizes her for climbing trees, calling her a naughty tomboy.  It seems poor Goyita is constantly being attacked from all sides.  One might say she is the typical misunderstood teen, only she is anything but typical.  Goyita’s mom also uses this opportunity to criticize her husband, Goyita’s father, whom she considers a lazy and ineffectual disciplinarian.

Soon the sergeant appears, inviting himself into the house.  Goyita’s dad rises when the sarge—his boss—enters.  Since the family lives over the police station, the sarge is apt to appear at any time.  The sergeant insinuates that Goyita has been climbing to the building’s roof, and the girl curtly answers, “That’s a lie,” earning her a smack to the back of the head from her mom.  We find out that Goyita’s given name is actually Gregoria; Goyita, or sometimes Goya, is a diminutive nickname.  The sarge accuses Goyita of leaving the attic door open and of breaking out a window.  She denies it, but her mother takes the sergeant’s side.  She ends Goyita’s meal and sends her to her bedroom as punishment for these offenses.

Jaime de Armiñán - El Nido (1980) (8)

Jaime de Armiñán – El Nido (1980) (8)

Alejandro prowls around Goyita’s school, waiting for her to get out of class.  Goyita’s teacher, Marisa, spots him and addresses him.  Their conversation is warm and friendly.  I can’t help but think that, if such a thing occurred in this day and age, the teacher would likely call the authorities immediately, and she certainly wouldn’t be friendly towards the man.  In fact, she apologizes for being rude to him the other day when she chased him
away from the rehearsal.  Meanwhile, Goyita watches the conversation from a nearby window.  She seems worried.  What are her teacher and her new friend discussing?

Well, Marisa is inviting him to the performance of Macbeth!  The old man isn’t sure he’ll be able to make it, though of course there is a powerful drawing card in the form of Goyita.  He wonders if Goyita was assigned this difficult role as some kind of punishment.  This isn’t a bad assumption.  Goyita certainly has a tendency to be mischievous.  But no, she is studying acting and volunteered for the part.  She’s the real deal, Al realizes, a girl truly interested in the arts.  His fascination for her only deepens.

Jaime de Armiñán - El Nido (1980) (9)

Jaime de Armiñán – El Nido (1980) (9)

Later, Alejandro enters an artist’s studio that’s full of old paintings and objets d’art.  It should come as no surprise that Alejandro is an aesthete, an admirer of beautiful things.  The artist turns out to be a young woman he is well acquainted with by the name of Mercedes.  Indeed, the two are lovers and their relationship is something of an open secret.  Yet, their relationship is well organized, with Al showing up at certain times each month.  This time, however, he has shown up early.  Something—or someone—has stirred up his passion, causing him to break out of his usual routines.  I wonder who that someone could be?

When a young couple shows up at the studio to invite Mercedes to some film event, she casually informs them that she and Alejandro are lovers.  Al feels like she is mocking him because she doesn’t really want to be seen with the old man.  She promptly informs him that he doesn’t understand her at all.  She’s right, for, although the two are lovers, they aren’t really compatible, though not because of their age difference.  They simply have different temperaments.  Anyway, to prove her sincerity, Mercedes drags him into the street and kisses him passionately before all and sundry.  There can be no doubt now that she cares about him, but what are his feelings toward her?  Note that she’s wearing red, the same color we usually see Goyita in.  Red has long been associated with passion and sexuality; so it is here.

Jaime de Armiñán - El Nido (1980) (10)

Jaime de Armiñán – El Nido (1980) (10)

Later, Goyita shows up at Al’s home on her bicycle.  The gardener nearly sends her away, but Al happens to see her ride up and alerts her to his presence and meets her on the lawn. His joy at her presence is obvious.  This is a man in love, no doubt.  Though Al is pleased to see her, he also takes time to lecture her about leaving home without her parents’ sanction.

Today this same story would be spun another way: Al would be a selfish sexual predator, a one-note villain who doesn’t really care about Goyita and manipulates her to get into her pants, and Goyita would be a lonely innocent who doesn’t understand what she’s getting into.  It would be a cautionary tale about the dangers of underage girls meeting up with strange older men.  But this film is far too classy and nuanced for that.  Alejandro does care about the girl, and while his emotions are running high, sex is the farthest thing from his mind at this moment.

Unfortunately, Al’s scolding, though gentle, upsets Goyita and she storms off.  But Al intercepts her; he doesn’t want her to leave, of course.  She says she came by yesterday and he was gone; she asks where he was.  He was in Madrid, he tells her, a bald-faced lie.  He was actually in Salamanca (which, incidentally, suggests their town is somewhere in the vicinity of Avila), meeting his lover.  Perhaps, then, Goyita has another reason to be upset.  Does she intuitively understand that he has been with a lover?  Maybe she is jealous after all.  Yet, she decides to stay.

Jaime de Armiñán - El Nido (1980) (11)

Jaime de Armiñán – El Nido (1980) (11)

As the two walk through the woods, Goyita insists that Alejandro not visit her at the school, or talk to her teacher for that matter.  More jealousy?  It must be said, the young teacher is quite beautiful.  Or is Goyita simply worried that word of their meetings will get back to her parents?  Whatever the case, Al promises to do neither of those things in the future.  Next she wants to know why he wears a beard, telling him that it makes him look old.  This is our first real hint that Goyita’s feelings about Al are more than emotional.  She desires for him to look younger, more pleasing to her eye, which means she has been assessing his appearance as someone of the opposite sex.  And yet, when he asks her if she’d like him to get rid of it, she emphatically replies, “No.”  She is confused by her own feelings, perhaps even fighting them.  They hear a bird chirping in the vicinity.  Is it a goldfinch, Al wonders?  Goyita identifies it as a coal tit.  She is forever correcting him on his bird identifications thereafter.  The girl definitely knows her birds!  Is she equally adept at identifying the bees?  Well . . .

Goyita asks about his necklace, which he tells her is a talisman meant to remind him of the concentration camp he was put into by the Francoists during the Spanish civil war.  It’s interesting that all three of the Ana Torrent films we have examined are connected to the Spanish Civil War in some way; few outside Spain can imagine the impact of that event on the lives of those who lived through it and through the Franco regime.  Al in turn asks Goyita how she knew his wife.  As it so happens, she was, like Goyita, a bird nest enthusiast.

In one of the most poignant scenes in the film (which kicks off an extended montage sequence set to music of The Creation), Alejandro and Goyita stand near what appears to be a broken monument in the countryside, both pretending to be conductors.  This is a metaphorical manifestation of their love for each other and their perfect compatibility, as they work together to conduct their imaginary orchestra.  In their minds they are perfectly in sync; but, of course, the realm of the imagination is not reality.   Previously Al had occupied the raised spot in their relative positions, but in an act that conveys multiple layers of meaning, Al steps down and leads Goyita to the higher position.  He is not only demonstrating his true love for the girl by literally placing her on a pedestal, he is also stepping down from his post as representative of his generation and allowing the next generation to replace him.  He’s old and he knows it, soon to die.  More foreshadowing.

Jaime de Armiñán - El Nido (1980) (12)

Jaime de Armiñán – El Nido (1980) (12)

As the montage continues, they dance.  Couples dancing has a semiotic relationship to sex.  This doesn’t mean that Alejandro and Goyita have had sex (or will), only that if they did, it might look something like this—honest, attentive, joyful and elegant.  We will see the dancing again, and each time it happens, the camera moves in a little closer as their relationship becomes more intimate.  In another kind of dance, the two circle and weave around each other on their bicycles.  Their relationship is being forged and strengthened with these actions.

The montage continues with skeet shooting, Al shooting the skeet while Goyita works the skeet thrower.  He’s a crack shot.  Remember that, because it will be relevant later.  This is also another sexual metaphor.  Al then teaches Goyita to fire the shotgun.  Again, these activities do not imply actual sex; they merely indicate what a sexual relationship would be like between them, a perfect give and take.  Despite their huge age difference, they are perfectly compatible in their shared world.  Would that this was all there was.  But it isn’t.  The reality is, they must contend with the rest of the world, and there is where their
compatibility breaks down, for their huge age disparity will inevitably mean heartbreak for Goyita.

Jaime de Armiñán - El Nido (1980) (13)

Jaime de Armiñán – El Nido (1980) (13)

The montage continues to unfold, and we see our pair riding horses together, a bit more dancing, and then they play Leapfrog.  It is interesting to note that, among the activities supposedly enjoyed by Edgar Allen Poe and his own 13-year-old bride was this game.  The couple lived in New York City (specifically, Fordham) for a brief time, and there are accounts of Poe and Virginia playing Leapfrog in Central Park with friends of theirs.  Finally, Alejandro and Goyita climb a tree to examine a bird’s nest before the montage ends.

Jaime de Armiñán - El Nido (1980) (14)

Jaime de Armiñán – El Nido (1980) (14)

Later, as they prepare for bed, Goyita’s two younger sisters, as small children are wont to do, tease their elder sibling about having a boyfriend.  Goyita denies that Alejandro is her boyfriend, and the sisters call him a holy fool.  They have no idea what that means; they’ve only heard the sergeant refer to Al by this term.  It starts an argument between Goyita and her sisters.

Back at Alejandro’s place, Al proclaims to Father Eladio that he’s a normal man, and yet he’s obsessed with this young girl.  The implication here is that Al is no pedophile or sex deviant; he has never been interested in young girls before, but now he finds himself in love with one.  To be fair, Goyita is hardly an average girl.  But what a quandary to be in!  Eladio tells him that if he didn’t know Al, he would’ve reported him to the authorities, yet he knows his friend would never hurt the girl.  Eladio suggests that Al should marry his lover Mercedes to get his mind off the girl and put an end to his loneliness.  Eladio asks how old the girl is, to which Al replies “110 years,” a joke referring to Goya’s precocious nature.

When they meet again, Goyita asks Alejandro what a holy fool is, to which he describes himself to a T, right down to the clothes he wears.  Goyita has the gardener call the police station to inform them that “Goya Menendez is eating dinner with her school friend.”  Again, Al lectures her about lying, especially to her parents.  Goyita dons Al’s headphones, a gesture meant to convey that she isn’t listening to Al’s lecturing.  When he removes the headphones and repeats his point, she again threatens to leave.  She has no patience for Al treating her as an elder treats a willful child; she sees him as an equal and wants him to treat her the same way.  Again he stops her from leaving and agrees with her point that they must lie about their relationship.  Perhaps he is finally seeing it for what it is, whereas Goyita, with youth’s ability to pierce instantly through facades, had seen it that way all along.

Jaime de Armiñán - El Nido (1980) (15)

Jaime de Armiñán – El Nido (1980) (15)

Alejandro tells Goyita that he dislikes the civil guard (police).  This seems to make her happy; she dislikes them too.  She asks to see his deceased wife’s bedroom, a request that makes Al uncomfortable for a couple of reasons, but he agrees to do so nonetheless.  At this point Goyita attempts to properly seduce Alejandro.  She picks up his wife’s brush and begins brushing her own hair with it.  She tells Al that his wife was unattractive in comparison to her, describing the woman as short, stocky and small-breasted!

She then goes through his wife’s old things, finding a beautiful blue dress that she holds up to herself.  She clearly has plans to replace Al’s absent spouse.  She says that it’s rumored that Al married for money rather than love.  This accusation finally pushes Al past his breaking point, and he becomes angry, but Goyita quells his anger by pointing out that she never actually believed the rumors.  She asks why they never had children.  Al says it was because his wife was barren, an answer that satisfies Goyita, who may be thinking about having kids with Al herself.  Finally, Goyita wonders if his wife suffered as she
was dying.  Al says that he suffered more than she did.

Jaime de Armiñán - El Nido (1980) (16)

Jaime de Armiñán – El Nido (1980) (16)

Then they have dinner.  The meal is elaborate, but only because Goyita is there.  She is flattered that Al would go to such trouble for her.  Later, while the two are looking at bird nests, Al asks why Goyita chose him.  “For everything,” she tells him.  Giving up the pretense of cautiousness, Al decides to drive Goyita home.  On the way, her teacher spots her in Al’s car and is obviously worried about her student.  Before she leaves his car, Goyita asks him if he likes her.  He tells her that she’s a child, albeit a bright and sensitive one. But that’s not what Goyita wants to hear; she wants to know if he likes her as a woman, and says that if he doesn’t, she will leave and never speak to him again.  She’s giving him an ultimatum: either love me on my terms or don’t love me at all.  Al tells her that he does indeed like her as a woman, but that it isn’t normal for someone his age to be attracted to a 13-year-old girl.  She asks for and receives a kiss from him (a chaste
one on the cheek).  He says to her that if people tell her bad things about him, she shouldn’t believe them. She agrees wholeheartedly.

Jaime de Armiñán - El Nido (1980) (17)

Jaime de Armiñán – El Nido (1980) (17)

While speaking to Goyita’s teacher, who has ostensibly come to ask him about music for the play, Al asks her why she agreed to let the girl play Lady Macbeth.  “Because she is evil enough to understand the role,” the teacher insists.  The teacher then asks him why he chose Goyita.  He never really answers her, but he points out that Goyita forbade him to talk to her, so he is violating his promise by even speaking to her.

He and Goyita meet again in the woods.  They swear a blood oath, mingling their blood in an act that mimics consummation.  They each carve their own first initial into the palm of the other and rub the wounds together.  Goyita then gives Al her red scarf, and Al gives Goyita his talisman.  Goyita then asks him to burn all of the pictures of his wife as well as her clothes and other belongings.  This he refuses to do, and she leaves.

Jaime de Armiñán - El Nido (1980) (18)

Jaime de Armiñán – El Nido (1980) (18)

Later, at school, the teacher asks to see Goyita’s hand.  When she asks what the A means, Goyita says, “Nothing.”  Because it is a letter A, the teacher asks all the boys whose names begin with A to stand.  But none of them have an initial on their hands.  She then asks all the children with an initial to raise their hands.  Every child laughingly raises their hand.  The kids are making a joke of Goyita’s love, but the teacher still believes it is another child who shared the blood oath with Goyita.  She tells her students that childhood romances are normal, though she does have some concerns about the cutting because of the risk of infection.

Later, as Marisa is painting props for the play, Goyita pays her a visit.  While getting her to help with the painting, the teacher also devises a plan to get Goyita to reveal what’s going
on with her: she will ask Goyita a personal question, and for every question she asks her, Goyita will get to ask Marisa a personal question in turn.  Goyita agrees to these terms.

After a few throwaway questions, Marisa gets down to the nitty-gritty.  “What does ‘A’ mean?” inquires Marisa.  Goyita replies, “You already know,” but she admits it stands for Alejandro.  Goyita asks what will be on the next test, which, by the established rules, the teacher must answer and does, but she isn’t happy about it.  How clever our girl is!  The teacher then asks if Goyita has the ‘G’ on his hand, which of course he does.  Goyita then wants to know why her teacher went to visit her friend.  She responds that she wanted to know if he was a trustworthy person.   The teacher then asks what it is Goyita and Alejandro do together.  Goyita lists the things they do, which does not include anything sexual.  The teacher advises Goyita to end the relationship, but Goyita claims it has already ended because he refused to do everything she commanded him to do.  (Despite the stereotype, it is clearly Goyita who is in charge of the relationship and doing all the manipulating.)  Even so, this is a lie on Goyita’s part—her relationship with Al may have undergone a temporary setback, but it is hardly over.

Jaime de Armiñán - El Nido (1980) (19)

Jaime de Armiñán – El Nido (1980) (19)

The film cuts back to Alejandro’s place.  Although he had refused to destroy his wife’s belongings, in the end he does as Goyita asked, burning her clothes and the photos of her in his yard.  It seems that no matter how much he resists, he cannot refuse Goyita in the end.  This is what true love has done to him.

The next morning, Goyita discovers that the sergeant has released her pet falcon, which rightly enrages Goyita.  She then happens upon the sergeant screaming at her father, presumably about his daughter’s shenanigans.  Goyita confronts the sergeant about her bird, but he simply shouts at her and calls her an idiot, then chases her out of his office.  Goyita, visibly upset, vows to kill the sergeant.  It’s an empty threat, of course; she is no murderer.  But she despises him that much.

Jaime de Armiñán - El Nido (1980) (20)

Jaime de Armiñán – El Nido (1980) (20)

Al visits his wife’s grave, and the priest finds him there.  Eladio tells Al that the townsfolk,
including the girl’s family, all know about their little romance.  Most people think Al is a bit koo-koo but basically a decent guy.  A small minority think he’s a sex maniac, however, and that he should be taught a lesson.  Eladio says he should beware of the latter group.  Alejandro tells Eladio that for the first time in his life he is really living.

Jaime de Armiñán - El Nido (1980) (21)

Jaime de Armiñán – El Nido (1980) (21)

When Goyita returns home for supper that night, her mother informs her that she is being shipped off to her aunt’s, and sends her to bed without her supper.  Her father too has had enough, it seems.  He removes his belt, preparing to give her a lashing.  Goyita wants to know why she’s being punished.  After all, it’s not like she and Alejandro are hurting anyone or doing anything wrong.  All they do is ride horses, listen to music and so on.  As it so happens, the anger from her father is all a front to fool his wife.  He doesn’t actually whip Goyita but repeatedly strikes the bed beside her instead.  This makes her mother happy, as she thinks her daughter is finally getting her long-deserved punishment, but her dad seems to understand his daughter better than her mother does.

Jaime de Armiñán - El Nido (1980) (22)

Jaime de Armiñán – El Nido (1980) (22)

Later, Alejandro tells Goyita that he bought a bird guide.  It seems Goyita has instilled in him her love of birds.  But now she is upset, for she is being sent away on Friday to live with her aunt.  This will be the last time they will get to be together.  She tells him too that the sergeant released her bird and took away the talisman Al gave her.  She asks him to kill the sergeant for her.

Jaime de Armiñán - El Nido (1980) (23)

Jaime de Armiñán – El Nido (1980) (23)

Back at home, Alejandro’s reminiscences of his times with Goyita are interrupted by Amparo.  In the past this would’ve made him angry, but it’s clear from their exchange that he is a changed man thanks to Goyita.  He treats his servant much better now.  Moreover, he is a broken man.  The loss of the love of his life has ripped the heart out of him.

In their final meeting, Al reveals to his priest friend that he spent five years in the seminary. They share a laugh over that.  Al decides to track down Goyita to her aunt’s place.  Of course, she can only watch him through the window, but she is very happy to see him.  It will be his final view of her, and he will take it to his grave.

Jaime de Armiñán - El Nido (1980) (24)

Jaime de Armiñán – El Nido (1980) (24)

Alejandro next goes to the police station, where he challenges the sergeant to a duel.  The sergeant thinks he’s joking, but he is quite serious.  He assures the sergeant that he is a terrible shot, but of course we know better.  Later, Al waits on the cliff to ambush the sergeant, who brings Goyita’s father with him.  They both carry machine guns, hardly a fair gunfight.  But Al doesn’t care about this anyway.  He fires on the sergeant and apparently misses.  He then stands in the open, waiting, and the sarge easily mows him down.  After killing Alejandro, the officers discover that Al was using blanks.  The thing is, Al had had the advantage because he was on higher ground, and he saw the sergeant well before the sergeant saw him.  Plus, he was a great shot.  He could easily have killed the sergeant if he’d wanted to, but he’d never intended to do so; his plan had been suicide by cop all along.

Jaime de Armiñán - El Nido (1980) (25)

Jaime de Armiñán – El Nido (1980) (25)

Many of the townsfolk show up for his funeral, including the policemen, the teacher and the priest.  Goyita later visits his grave, which has been erected on the same site where the old monument once stood and where he and Goyita first danced.  She vows to never give herself to another as long as she lives.  She says that he taught her a new word beginning with A: Amor. She carves another A into her palm and places it against his grave.  The final shot is of Goyita conducting The Creation from Alejandro’s gravesite.

Jaime de Armiñán - El Nido (1980) (26)

Jaime de Armiñán – El Nido (1980) (26)

 

The Girls of Summer, Pt. 2

Well, I was planning to do an article on the Ana Torrent film El nido first, but I haven’t even got the film stills ready yet, so I will do it later this month.  Meanwhile, I’ll go ahead and get this out of the way, because I know some of you have been eagerly anticipating it.  So let’s get started, shall we?

The first two pieces are from a Russian photographer I’ve featured before, who went by the name Mastadont at whatever photography site I pulled these from.  The first piece is a reference to a character from Slavic mythology, a water nymph called a Rusalka.  But I especially like the second image.  It’s a lively piece, and one of the little girls almost seems to be dancing atop the rainbow that dissects the image.

Mastadont - In the Lake Swam Rusalka

Mastadont – In the Lake Swam Rusalka

Mastadont - (Title Unknown)

Mastadont – (Title Unknown)

Photodom: Mastodont

Now here’s a painting by Donald Zolan, who is known for producing highly popular if somewhat kitschy paintings of children.  Any one of dozens of his works could fit into this post, but I really like this one of a young girl stooping down to get a better look at a monarch caterpillar.  Zolan will eventually get an entire post devoted to his work, but for now we’ll have to settle for this one.  The artist himself passed away in 2009, but his art lives on and is as popular as ever.

Donald Zolan - Small Wonder

Donald Zolan – Small Wonder

The Zolan Company (official site)

This is a strange image.  The little girl is topless, which is odd considering the time and place the photo was taken: Coney Island, New York in the early ’90s.  Unlike in Europe or other parts of the world, little girls going topless at an American beach is highly unusual, to say the least.  Moreover, bucking the usual trend for these kinds of photos, this girl does not appear to be very happy.  She’s frowning, and her arms are crossed defensively.  Award-winning photographer Rineke Dijkstra is Dutch, but perhaps her subject here was not, and while Dijkstra clearly saw nothing out of the ordinary in having this girl pose topless, the girl herself seems less than thrilled at the prospect.  Then again, the little redhead could be upset about something entirely unrelated.  Who knows?  This subject is now an adult, and I’d be curious to learn what was actually going on in her head at the time this was taken.

Rineke Dijkstra - Coney Island, NY, USA, July 9, 1993

Rineke Dijkstra – Coney Island, NY, USA, July 9, 1993

Wikipedia: Rineke Dijkstra

This image has appeared on the blog before in one of the old Random Image of the Day posts, but I have eliminated that post and brought the image into this one.  I know nothing about the photographer.  This is another image I picked up from a photography site, probably Russian.  I am intrigued by the girl’s pose—she stares up at the sky with a smile, and seems to wave at someone there, perhaps a passing angel, her hand lambent in the sunlight.  I only wish the photo was slightly larger.

Tony Chiodo - Angelic

Tony Chiodo – Angelic

Frank Owen Salisbury’s work has appeared on this blog before as well.  The interesting thing about Salisbury is that he was a conservative hardcore Methodist and a serious portraitist who painted the likes of Franklin D. Roosevelt, Queen Elizabeth II, Winston Churchill and even John Wesley (the founder of Methodism) himself.  And yet, Salisbury also painted this beautiful piece featuring two nude young girls.  In fact, the girls were Salisbury’s own twin daughters, Monica and Sylvia.  What?!  Imagine, a man like Salisbury presenting his own preteen daughters to the world without a stitch!

Ah, but alas, how differently we have come to look upon the nude child since Salisbury’s time.  Today a religious conservative like Salisbury would likely be protesting such images rather than painting them.  One thing I’d like to point out here: although it’s subtle, if you look at the blond twin’s wrist, you can see she is wearing a very thin bracelet, an item that  ever so slightly anchors this image to modernity.  Finally, it is notable that the original version of this painting is currently housed at the National Trust Museum of Childhood, part of Sudbury Hall in Derbyshire, England, which looks like an altogether fabulous place to visit if you’re ever in that part of England.

Frank Owen Salisbury - Wonders of the Sea (1912)

Frank Owen Salisbury – Wonders of the Sea (1912)

Wikipedia: Frank Owen Salisbury

British photographer and art film director Tacita Dean took the next shot that focuses on a couple of toddlers who have clearly been enjoying a dip in a pool or pond or some such.  Is it just me or does the little blond girl’s costume look to be crocheted or knitted?  Whatever it is, it’s an odd choice for swimwear. Perhaps these outfits were not intended as bathing costumes at all and the water frolicking was all rather impromptu.  This image has the warm, fuzzy feel of a snapshot from a family photo.  Or, it could be a subtle advertisement for Johnson’s Baby Lotion.

Tacita Dean - Baby Lotion (2000)

Tacita Dean – Baby Lotion (2000)

Tacita Dean (official site)

Wikipedia: Tacita Dean

The following piece was scanned from The Family of Children, a book I’ve drawn from before.  The book contains another image of this girl from the same shoot, a closeup (bust and head) portrait, but I think this one is much more interesting.  The girl looks to be preparing for a swim while a young couple (her parents?) make out on the ground behind her, completely oblivious to the girl’s presence.  This image may have been shot at the original Woodstock festival—it has the right feel. I’m sure it comes from the hippie era: late ’60s/early ’70s.  Because the source image was small, this is a little grainier than I’d prefer.  I used the Gaussian blur feature in Photoshop to eliminate the halftone, but I didn’t want to overdo it or too much detail would’ve been lost.  It’s a fine balancing act.

The photo was taken by Joan Liftin, who isn’t terribly well-represented on the web but should be.  She has, in the course of her career, worked for the likes of the International Center of Photography, Magnum Photos and UNICEF, and she has edited books on other photographers such as Mary Ellen Mark, Charles Harbutt and Andrea Stern.

Joan Liftin - (Title Unknown)

Joan Liftin – (Title Unknown)

This next piece is a digital photo-manipulation piece by DeviantArt user Kayceeus.  She works with stock photos and creates collages that she then manipulates until they resemble paintings.  This one is particularly good, and had I not known, I might easily have mistaken this for an actual photo-realistic painting.

Kayceeus - Summer Fun

Kayceeus – Summer Fun

DeviantArt: Kayceeus

These next two photos are by Helen Eleeva.  Because of the girl’s movement and the tilted angle in each, these images are dynamic.  In the first photo, the girl is running along the beach with her dog.  Caught mid-stride, she appears to float over the beach.  In the second photo, we see her with arms outstretched and hair fanned out.  Is she pretending to be a helicopter?  Note how the other (tiny) figures in the shot have been relegated to the far upper right-hand corner.  It’s an odd composition, to be sure, but it mostly works.

Helen Eleeva - (Title Unknown) (1)

Helen Eleeva – (Title Unknown) (1)

Helen Eleeva - (Title Unknown) (2)

Helen Eleeva – (Title Unknown) (2)

Along the same lines is this color piece by Swedish photographer and designer Jonas Elmqvist.  Running with arms outstretched, the little girl is about to bolt past the frame of the image and leave it altogether.  There’s something inherently true to the experience of childhood here.  It reminds me of a beautiful quote by Michael Whitmore from his article Finders Keepers:

Children, like legends and rare books, are often on the verge of disappearing, and it is for those who have left the kingdom of childhood—that high-walled garden whose gate has always been left swinging in the background—to wonder where they’ve gone.

Jonas Elmqvist - Summer Feeling

Jonas Elmqvist – Summer Feeling

Another image borrowed from a Russian photography site.  The thing that’s most striking about this image to me is how, though the one little girl is clearly nude, most of the other children (all of whom appear to be boys) are dressed in rather clean and modern-looking clothes.  These kids aren’t counterculture types, I think; nudity is just accepted for young kids hanging out on a raft with their grandfather.  But both the little girl and the boy sitting up front (a brother?) are also wearing crucifix necklaces.  This is Russia after all—far different standards than in the US.

Galina Sergeyev - Grandfather Said . . .

Galina Sergeyev – Grandfather Said . . .

This piece is by Turkish painter Ali Özhan Güneş, who often paints scenes from nude beaches.  Again, the interesting point here is the contrast between the two boys wearing swimsuits and the naked (except for sunglasses) little girl who is watching them.  The boys seem to be completely oblivious to the naked girl beside them, but in a year or so that will likely all change.

Ali Özhan Güneş - Happy Children (2012)

Ali Özhan Güneş – Happy Children (2012)

Ali Özhan Güneş (official site)

This is a fun image.  I’m not entirely sure what the girl is wearing as the splashing water obscures most of it, but it appears to be some sort of scouting or sporting outfit.  The latter makes more sense based on the title.  Spain won the FIFA World Cup in soccer in 2010, which would indicate this image dates from the same year.  I know nothing about the photographer here.

Anna Kamińska - Congratulations Spain

Anna Kamińska – Congratulations Spain

Canadian photographer Valerie Rosen made a name for herself documenting life in the Near East, but she also works as a portrait and events photographer.  I really love the pose this little girl is in.  She looks like she’s about to tumble backwards, right onto her behind.  Joy indeed.

Valerie Rosen - Joy

Valerie Rosen – Joy

Flickr: Valerie Rosen

Tom Chambers is my favorite artist in this post.  As a photographer, he likes to create images that hover at the edge of surreality.  If you visit no other sites linked in this article, don’t miss this one.  There are plenty of little girls in his work, including a whole series from which this next image is taken.  The concept and symbolism here are compelling for reasons that are difficult to quantify, but I’ll do my best.  First there’s the contrast between the dark, massive, earthy beast and the airy, light and graceful girl who rides it, even as she mimics the sea bird flying nearby.  The bird itself hovers over the horse’s head, as if representing the true nature of the horse, who may want to fly too.  Thus we have a kind of spiritual triangle here: horse, girl and bird, all connected by the water and air around them and seeking the next level up from their usual conditions.  The horse is much lighter in the water, the girl is higher and freer on the back of the horse, and the bird is the most liberated of them all.  The horse is a Marwari, which come from India, a nation whose people are known for their spiritual connection to the elements.

Tom Chambers - Marwari Stallion #1 (2009)

Tom Chambers – Marwari Stallion #1 (2009)

Tom Chambers Photography (official site)

Carl Wilhelmson was a Swedish painter whose best work was produced during the first quarter of the 20th century.  He was a student of Carl Larsson, and his work bears much resemblance to Larsson’s, but he also studied under Bruno Liljefors, whom he might’ve inherited his love of outdoor scenes from.  He didn’t paint many nudes, but one of the few he did paint is our next image.  The girl’s pose feels slightly stiff and forced, and she is a tad too centered, but the light flooding the scene, the muted colors and the paleness of the medium itself tend to counteract any overly formal aspects of the piece.

Carl Wilhelmson - Sommar i skären (1915)

Carl Wilhelmson – Sommar i skären (1915)

Wikipedia: Carl Wilhelmson (Site is in Swedish)

Last but not least . . . two photos from Mikael Anderrson.  The close bond these children have is obvious, and I could look at dozens more photos featuring the two.  I wonder where they are now?

Mikael Andersson - A Boy and a Girl Playing in the Water

Mikael Andersson – A Boy and a Girl Playing in the Water

Mikael Andersson - A Girl and a Boy Embracing at a Lakeside

Mikael Andersson – A Girl and a Boy Embracing at a Lakeside

The Final Nail in the Coffin

Because of the paradigm of childhood innocence, there are a number of juxtapositions that most people would find odd or outright disturbing. In one interesting case, U.S. prosecutors solved an embarrassing problem because of the sight of children smoking marijuana.

A couple of years ago, I watched the documentary Square Grouper which told three tales of marijuana smuggling in Florida. Square Grouper is a euphemism for the bundles of marijuana that would wash ashore when smugglers jettisoned their cargo under the pursuit of drug enforcement authorities.

The first story was about a group that called itself The Ethiopian Zion Coptic Church. Based in Jamaica, its members believed that marijuana—which they referred to as ganja—was a sacramental herb and an essential part of Church ritual. The remarkable thing about this sect is that it was very conservative and believed in the strict obedience of women and no homosexuality, birth control or masturbation. And yet it was progressive in its belief in the brotherhood of white and black men. When white men from the United States first began to visit Jamaica, it was recognized that some way had to be found to bring ganja into the U.S. and a smuggling operation began. It eventually was so economically successful that it became the top source of income for the Jamaican government.

U.S. Church members finally acquired enough wealth to purchase a compound on Star Island in Miami Beach in 1975, much to the consternation of the neighbors. The rapidly growing group began to get complaints because of the large disruptive influx of new “followers” and the dense smoke wafting onto the neighbors’ properties. A number of law enforcement agencies began surveilling the compound and would arrest Church participants, but would have to release them later as they argued on the grounds of freedom of religion (First Amendment) and could afford the best lawyers in the area. This was an embarrassing situation for the authorities as news agencies covered the activities of the Coptics. In an attempt to convince the neighbors of their holy intentions, they were invited for a visit and that’s when the appalling vision of children smoking large amounts of ganja was witnessed by outsiders.

Billy Corben - Square Grouper (2011) (1)

Billy Corben – Square Grouper (2011) (1)

Billy Corben - Square Grouper (2011) (2)

Billy Corben – Square Grouper (2011) (2)

When these images hit the airwaves, the public outrage gave the authorities the political cover to arrest and convict leaders on charges of drug smuggling.

There are two important lessons to be had here. 1) No matter how righteous a group thinks its position is, success does require a certain political aptitude and a recognition of the prevalent public perception. 2) Emotional reactions to images or situations will overrule even the most skilled attempts at rational argument.

When I mentioned this film to Pip, he told me he had seen pictures of Rastafarian children smoking in an issue of Life Magazine. Unfortunately, the only images he could find online were too small to use here and he did not remember which issue they appeared in. If any readers can assist in this shortcoming, it would be much appreciated.

Maiden Voyages: August 2015

Beloved Photographer Dies: I was just informed that Wyatt Neumann died on June 11th from a motorcycle crash triggered by a brain aneurysm.  From what little I learned in my research, he had courage, wit and a zest for life.  It is clear that those who knew him will miss him deeply.  Our sincere condolences to his family and friends.  [added 150804]

A New Voice: As most of you have noticed, a new writer has joined us. When Lily C. first wrote to Pip, he got the strong feeling that she offered an important fresh voice. Pip and I are both pleased that she has agreed to contribute posts to this site. Her first effort regarding the novel The Clan of the Cave Bear has gotten a lot of notice and I know we all look forward to her future endeavors.

Wish List: The Wish list has been working only so-so. Given the number of readers that visit this site, I expected to have gotten more leads. I did get a few though, so thank you. I have reorganized the Wish List page by categories because I know people tend to be more knowledgeable in one area or another. First will be the artists listed alphabetically, then books, comics and finally films. That will make it possible to focus on one particular section to see if we have made new requests. Once the list gets long enough, we will establish separate pages for each category.

Dropbox: Pigtails in Paint has a Dropbox account so the exchange of materials needed (files up to 2GB) for upcoming posts can be done with relative ease and anonymity.

Little Orphan Images: Last month, I decided I needed some help identifying the artists of some random images. The problem with the internet is that casual publishers of these images do not identify them. They are images that strike me as important or show the kind of skill worth mentioning on this site. There are only three, but I intend to add a lot more.

Growing Pains: Pigtails in Paint is like a little child and is growing in spurts. We are reaching a point where we need a dedicated server. That is being arranged, but it will cost more money. There is good news and bad news about this. First the good news: because of the dedicated server, it will be possible at some point for people wishing some protection from unreasonable censorship to be hosted by our server. And the bad news: maintaining such a server costs more money so we will need to bring in money from readers and other supporters. A PayPal account will be established for donations/memberships. We are currently brainstorming ideas for incentives that can be offered to those who contribute.

Cabinet Cards: I know you have all seen a multitude of cabinet cards for sale on the internet. However, they do not come with much commentary or background information. One of our contributors informed me of an excellent site to visit that actually goes into more depth.  See also this.

They Have to Start Sometime: An associate found a cute video about the art of Flamenco dancing. About 5 minutes into the video, you can see some little girls practicing.

Nice Girl Images: A fellow blogger informed me of someone who linked to his site and has is showing off a lot of nice girl images. The site is in Dutch but well worth translating.

Creepy Lyrics: I was also given a link to a site that put together a list of songs with lyrics that would certainly make many people cringe today. They were or are all popular songs with catchy tunes, so what does that say about our culture? Were the old days better with a greater latitude of expression or is today better, now that we don’t express such disrespect to young people? Were they innocent expressions of fantasy or brainwashing to put ideas in the heads of young people?

Legal Briefs: Chris Madaio has been generously using his knowledge as a paralegal to educate us on the vagaries of law. However, due to his conviction, he has been subjected to aggressive censorship triggered by watchdog groups. The latest indignity is having his Facebook account shut down. This is remarkable since that social networking site tolerates a hell of a lot. I thought it would be more interesting here to share some of his ideas for filing a lawsuit against the company (and one particular watchdog group) for this perfunctory termination.

Madaio had been on Facebook since early 2014, using it solely to contact old friends in Italy and sending them some of their pictures from the 1970s through ‘90s. Has says 95% of them were pleased and he also used the site to publicize his photo site and paralegal site, hoping also to get some contract engineering jobs. In about June 2015, the local Parents for Megan’s Law (PFML) informed the local Sex Offender Registry (SOR) officer about his account. Because he’d never caused trouble with the local SOR officer, he was called in to her office to update the records. In the beginning of July, his Facebook account was disabled. A message indicated that he was “ineligible for an account”. The company hasn’t responded yet to his complaint generated through the Better Business Bureau. In mid-July he called the local PFML and while never expressly admitting to initiating the Facebook action, it was obvious they knew all about him.

Here are the legal issues—bear in mind that the legal basis of these causes of action have not been confirmed and are only speculative questions at this time. Perhaps Facebook is in Breach of Contract and/or violating Madaio’s First Amendment rights. There is a clause restricting convicted “sex offenders”, but he has operated the account for over 1.5 years without complaint. Since he believes PFML is directly responsible, he is looking for ways to tie that organization to his legal action. He also wonders if he can compel PFML to produce documents showing they were involved.

Naturally, attorneys are reluctant to take on this kind of case pro-bono and attempts to contact the ACLU in the past have gotten no reply. Without financial backing, he will have to muddle through this process on his own with uncertain results. He is motivated by the thought that all his work might be invalidated in the public’s eyes because of a 2006 conviction not directly connected to his photographic work. It would be one thing if he were guilty of child molestation or assault, but he was convicted of possessing child pornography (on his computer). On these grounds, it would be hard to make a case that Madaio is some kind of danger to children and limit his access as a precautionary measure. After all, a Facebook page is easy enough to monitor if someone really thought there were something sinister going on and Pigtails would not be taking up space here by offering these updates otherwise.

Cave Girl: Jean M. Auel’s ‘The Clan of the Cave Bear’

With my first post I’m going to discuss the book The Clan of the Cave Bear by Jean M. Auel, as well as the movie directed by Michael Chapman. As is usually the case, the book was far more engaging and meaningful than the movie, so I will take the plot points from the book and use various screenshots from the movie. The latter uses three actresses to represent the various stages of Ayla’s life; Emma Floria is 5-year-old Ayla, Nicole Eggert plays Ayla at about 11 or 12, and Daryl Hannah is adolescent/adult Ayla. Unfortunately, the movie didn’t accurately depict Ayla’s timeline. She is under eighteen for the whole of the book, and is 14 at its conclusion. Within that span of time she experiences incredible hardship, but what she learns in those 9 years will change everything forever. 

Michael Chapman, John Sayles and Jean M. Auel – The Clan of the Cave Bear (1986) (1)

Ayla is a Cro-Magnon girl (early Homo sapiens sapiens), distant ancestors to our forbears and us. Mog-ur—known to her affectionately by his true name, Creb—is a Neanderthal Man (H. neanderthalensis) and the most powerful magician known to his Clan. They share the same ancestor but are fated to much different paths. Creb and all his people are about to die in one of the most questionable extinctions known to modern science, while Ayla’s kind are on their way to becoming the most populous and (relatively) successful  mammals to have ever existed. Nobody seems to know just what happened there, and Jean M. Auel, while aiming to write fiction based on facts, did not specify how her Neanderthal clan were to become extinct either.

Ayla is taken in by the medicine woman of the Neanderthal clan after an earthquake kills Ayla’s family and forces the Clan out of their cave, their only home. The girl is just five years old, but nevertheless survives the attack of a cave lion (the grass lion’s huge, hungry ancestor) and passes out presumably from shock and pain. She is found by the Clan’s medicine woman, Iza on their search for a new cave home.

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Michael Chapman, John Sayles and Jean M. Auel – The Clan of the Cave Bear (1986) (2)

Iza is sibling to the Clan leader, Brun, so he is given to allow Iza to keep and care for the girl. The young girl eventually trains with Iza to become a medicine woman and is quite proficient with flowers and herbs. She also gets in the habit of using the excuse that she is looking for plants for Iza so that she can wander around by herself in the wilderness, thinking and playing in solitude.

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Michael Chapman, John Sayles and Jean M. Auel – The Clan of the Cave Bear (1986) (3)

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Michael Chapman, John Sayles and Jean M. Auel – The Clan of the Cave Bear (1986) (4)

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Michael Chapman, John Sayles and Jean M. Auel – The Clan of the Cave Bear (1986) (5)

Ayla’s presence disturbs the others, and their treatment towards her differences profoundly impacts her development. She is especially terrible with following their strict social customs, which include the docility and submission of women as virtues—instead of the low, shuffling walk of Clan women, Ayla is gifted with long, thin legs and is taller than most of the men by age 12. The discomfort she causes is very much about the way that she looks in comparison to the rest of the clan as well. Throughout the book she is repeatedly referred to as ugly by the other members, even by her sweet Mog-ur, and it is assumed she will never acquire a partner. They have no qualms about speaking these things in front of her either.

“He visualized the tall, skinny child, straight arms and legs, flat face with a large, bulging forehead, pale and washed out; even her eyes were too light. She will be an ugly woman, Mog-ur thought honestly. What man is likely to want her anyway?”  Jean M. Auel – The Clan of the Cave Bear

 

“… The skull of Cro-Magnon 1 does show traits that are unique to modern humans, including the tall, rounded skull with a near vertical forehead. A large brow ridge no longer tops the eye sockets and there is no prominent prognathism of the face and jaw [as compared to H. neanderthalensis].”  Smithsonian Natural Museum of History

Part of the reason why she is regarded with this repulsion is because her childhood seems to last much longer than what is regular for the Clan. Their lifespans average 30 years and the children are usually ready for their mating ceremonies at age 7 or 8. They start to wonder when she doesn’t seem to be developing the regular features of a woman, but it is precisely her childish figure which enables her to gain the skills that will eventually allow her to become independent. In this way and many others, Ayla becomes a symbol of fate for Creb, but to the others she is profoundly mysterious, profoundly wrong.

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Michael Chapman, John Sayles and Jean M. Auel – The Clan of the Cave Bear (1986) (6)

Built mainly for storing large quantities of data as memories, the Neanderthal Clan have minds that can peer thousands of years into the past with a process as simple as contemplating the natural life that surrounds them. (This is, of course, speculation by the author. You can do the research for yourself but there is some level of validity to her fictional fantasies.) The Clan can see eons behind them, all the way back to the dawn of life, with the help of a divine flower employed by Mog-ur; Datura stramonium or Angel’s Trumpet—Devil’s trumpet, if you’d like to play your hand on the other side of the paradox. But they can’t think in numerical terms past 3, and Mog-ur, whose mind is significantly more attuned to the abstract, the extra-sensory, can’t pass 20.  Ayla, however, is on her way to multiplying single-digit numbers at the age of five. She so astounds Creb with her mind that he becomes enthralled with her instantly, falling in love with her confidence and intelligence the first year of her stay.

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Michael Chapman, John Sayles and Jean M. Auel – The Clan of the Cave Bear (1986) (7)

Despite the rigidity of the Clan’s ways, especially in their expectation of docile behavior from the women, Creb gives Ayla some slack, often only scolding her for behavior that other men would have punished with physical violence. Physical affection is kept at a minimum between the two, but Ayla trusts in the old man’s love.

Her first year with the clan is arduous, as she is forced by her adoptive family and the pressures of the group to conform to their patriarchal expectations. However unexpectedly, she does seem to grow with a strength and confidence that is rare even for males in the Clan, and this brings about the unlucky attention of the leader’s son, Broud, who is to become her unfailing tormentor.

The boy is arrogant and narcissistic, unable to let go of Ayla’s unwomanly confidence and skill set. As Broud becomes a man and more assured in his dominance, his torments too become progressively more vicious and physically violent. But she has a secret. Ayla has learned to hunt, eventually becoming more proficient with a sling than the Clan’s own sling master. Broud’s attacks no longer bother her—in fact, she eggs him on, carrying her secret skill as a totem of confidence. Soon after her first menses at age 10, however, her secret is discovered when she kills a hyena to save a Clan child from death. She is given a comparatively mild punishment, considering it is strictly forbidden for a woman to even touch a weapon—a transgression which is punishable by death—and afterwards is startlingly anointed with the title of Woman Who Hunts by Mog-ur and the leader. From then on she is given the freedom to hunt in the open, using only her sling, but that’s good enough for her. Ayla’s confidence soars, and eventually the Clan begins to accept her, even respect her. Everyone except for Broud, that is.

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Michael Chapman, John Sayles and Jean M. Auel – The Clan of the Cave Bear (1986) (8)

Because of his unceasing abuse, Ayla has learned to dissociate from Broud, obeying him but no longer with any hint of emotional investment. But her pain is what makes Broud happy and he is frustrated with her lack of distress. Again shortly after her first menses, Broud comes across Ayla gathering herbs for Iza away from the cave and rapes her. Because of Clan customs, any male is allowed to have intercourse with any female he wishes, even if she belongs to another man, even if she isn’t yet a woman—but most Clan men feel it beneath their dignity to have intercourse with a child.  All a man has to do is give a signal, and the female will “assume the position”. Because of this, the Clan doesn’t protest when Broud takes up the habit of raping her daily, sometimes multiple times a day. The women are confused as to why she is screaming out as if in pain, but the ordeal is seen as some kind of odd phase for Broud, considering Ayla is so unattractive and Broud has a beautiful woman of his own. Iza and Creb notice her crippling depression, but they don’t know what to attribute it to and so have no way of helping her.

A redeeming feature of the Clan is that they don’t stigmatize sexuality in childhood.

“In the Clan, the mating of two people was entirely a spiritual affair, begun with a declaration to the whole clan but consummated by a secret rite that included only the men. In this primitive society, sex was as natural and unrestrained as sleeping or eating. Children learned, as they learned other skills and customs, by observing adults, and they played at intercourse as they mimicked other activities from a young age. Often a boy who reached puberty, but had not yet made his first kill and existed in limbo between child and adult, penetrated a girl child even before she reached her menarche.”  Jean M. Auel, The Clan of the Cave Bear

However, they don’t necessarily know how sex works either. They believe in animal spirits called Totems; assigned to every member of the clan, they protect each person and bring luck or misfortune depending on how the clan behaves. They believe these spirits are rooted themselves in tradition as well, fearing anger from their otherworldly protectors if they stray from long-practiced rites and customs. Male totems are usually “stronger” than female totems (for example, a female totem might be a beaver where a male totem may be a wild boar), and it is believed that pregnancy is caused by the male totem “defeating” the female totem by some undefined spiritual means. A woman’s menses is similarly caused by the woman’s totem defeating a man’s totem. Ayla herself has the strongest totem in the tribe, the massive Cave Lion, assigned by Mog-ur when he contemplates the parallel scars on her legs caused by the cave lion attack when she was just five years old. Throughout her years, Ayla receives assistance and protection from the Cave Lion, noticed only by Mog-ur (as such a strong totem for a little girl confuses the rest of the Clan).

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Michael Chapman, John Sayles and Jean M. Auel – The Clan of the Cave Bear (1986) (9)

Shockingly enough (or maybe not), Ayla soon discovers she is pregnant—and is ecstatic. She had been told all throughout her childhood that she would never bear children, would never mate or find a partner due to her incredibly powerful totem and her ugliness. She forms no connection at first between Broud’s sexual abuse and the pregnancy, but it isn’t long before she pieces it together—becoming the first of the tribe to ever do so. She loves her baby all the same, and I believe the child represents for her a reclamation of her femininity, stripped from her at a young age simply because she didn’t fit the Clan’s idea of what it meant to be female. Her first child, born to her at age 11, is therefore a symbol of her unfailing femininity in spite of her masculine strength. The child is born as a hybrid between the two human species and is seen by the Clan as being deformed, but to Ayla she sees only unity—the mergence of her spirit with that of the Clan in a way she could never accomplish herself. In the end, Broud gives her the one thing she thought she would never get.

An interesting aspect of the plot involves the Clan Gathering, which I will not go into too much detail about. A ritual is held at the gathering in which Ayla must act as medicine woman and distribute the Datura decoction to the females of hers and other Clans. She takes some as well, perhaps too much, but when the women begin their erotic dance, Ayla is pulled by some force to Creb’s ceremony involving the Mog-urs and acolytes of other clans. This is a ceremony not only restricted from female participation, but male participation as well. It is only for the shamans. She learns some interesting things from Creb here and I will not say anything else about it because it’s honestly an astounding scene that should be read in its original form to be appreciated.

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Michael Chapman, John Sayles and Jean M. Auel – The Clan of the Cave Bear (1986) (10)

I find the contrasts between her masculine and feminine aspects quite interesting. Rather, I find it interesting in that she’s not really masculine or feminine. The definitions attached to this duality are entirely subjective, seemingly dependent on the social context in which they are used. It is true that most societies throughout human history seem to have considered hunting an entirely masculine activity, but there are definitely exceptions as with all things. From the Clan’s perspective, she is almost wholly masculine; but then, she bears life, she experiences the cycles of her menses, and she develops a close relationship with plants—all are traits considered feminine by the Clan and many real-life human societies. If you read up on mythology you’ll have heard of Artemis, goddess of hunting, virginity, and protector of nature.

Considering Ayla is a child for most of the book (in the sense that she is under 18), it’s interesting to think of what femininity means in the context of little girls and in the context of Ayla’s role in the Clan. Children are unaware of themselves in a very genuine way, resulting in a sort of freedom that most adults can’t seem to experience. Little girls are themselves a kind of nymph or faerie—feminine, yes, but also masculine in the most surprising and mischievous of ways. They are dynamic, dual. I can say from experience that emerging as a woman from a state of girlhood is entirely frightening. All of a sudden it’s not cute to climb trees in a dress, or acceptable to sit with your legs very obviously open, or to do all sorts of things I was able to do without inhibition as a young girl, without even a thought as to how it was perceived by others. Eventually it became time to grow up, time to accept only one half of the duality while ignoring the other as if it didn’t exist. Ayla is so fascinating because she never seems to experience this horrible shift. Her unheard-of status as Woman Who Hunts combined with her other differences mean that the Clan is constantly in a state of awe or confusion about her, allowing Ayla to dissociate from Clan customs and to walk into herself as she wholly is. She grows up without the notion that she is a child turning into an adult. I’m not sure about the other books, but by the end of The Clan of the Cave Bear, Ayla is a woman and child all in one, and she is also neither—she’s Ayla.

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Michael Chapman, John Sayles and Jean M. Auel – The Clan of the Cave Bear (1986) (11)

By the way, I still climb trees in dresses, ha!

sticktongueout

Margaret O’Brien

Fascism and the Politics of Nudity: Thomas Mann

This post is the result of two seemingly unrelated leads that suddenly came together. A very well-read friend of mine told me of an account by Thomas Mann (1875–1955): in the 1920s while visiting a beach in his native Germany with his granddaughter, she got sand in her bathing suit. Mann quite sensibly suggested that she wash it out in the ocean. The outraged response of the other beachgoers shocked him and became fodder for his story, Mario und der Zauberer (Mario and the Magician,1929). Unbeknownst to me, a film by that name was made in 1994 and one of our readers suggested I track it down and watch it. I decided to watch the film and read the story translated into English. Unfortunately, the flow of Mann’s melodic prose is lost in translation, but being his most political piece, we can still get a lot out of it.

The main story is of a German-speaking family (probably Austrian) who go on vacation in the town of Torre di Venere in Italy. In the film, the family is named Fuhrmann: a father (a professor), his wife and their children Stephan and Sophie.

Klaus Maria Brandauer, Burt Weinshanker and Thomas Mann - Mario und der Zauberer (1994) (1)

Klaus Maria Brandauer, Burt Weinshanker and Thomas Mann – Mario und der Zauberer (1994) (1)

In Mann’s story, Mario is just a waiter who serves them and the children are friendly with, but in Burt Weinshanker’s screenplay, the family greet him as though they were old friends.

Klaus Maria Brandauer, Burt Weinshanker and Thomas Mann - Mario und der Zauberer (1994) (2)

Klaus Maria Brandauer, Burt Weinshanker and Thomas Mann – Mario und der Zauberer (1994) (2)

An itinerant and popular magician, Cipolla—played by the film’s director, Klaus Maria Brandauer—comes on the scene and performs with his troupe a somewhat impromptu performance in the street. He is not a magician in the traditional sense; he performs number tricks and card tricks, but his most compelling skill is hypnotizing people and getting them to do all sorts of strange things. This symbolizes the power of rhetoric and propaganda that cause people to act against their own interests. The thing that adds tension to this character is that he is not gracious about his talent, but openly ridicules his subjects. Even when he makes a mistake, he can still get people to believe in him.

Klaus Maria Brandauer, Burt Weinshanker and Thomas Mann - Mario und der Zauberer (1994) (3)

Klaus Maria Brandauer, Burt Weinshanker and Thomas Mann – Mario und der Zauberer (1994) (3)

Italy seems pleasant enough at first but the entangled power structure and unwritten rules of conduct made a series of errors by the family inevitable. To start with, even though they were paying guests, they did not get the kind of deluxe treatment they expected. They had to move to another hotel which was much more hospitable and right on the beach. While Stephan (Jan Wachtel) and Sophie (Nina Schweser) are building a sand castle, Fuggiero (Anthony Pfriem), the 12-year-old son of a local aristocrat stomps on it making some implausible excuse. Of course this was intended as a deliberate insult and warning to the two unsuspecting siblings. It is also meant to represent the tendency of fascist systems to ridicule foreigners in order to build up their own people. The climax of this drama happens a little later when Sophie is sitting quietly in the same place on the beach and Fuggiero and two other boys start cursing at her and throwing sand. Somewhat playfully, she tries to fight back but is overpowered and knocked down.

Klaus Maria Brandauer, Burt Weinshanker and Thomas Mann - Mario und der Zauberer (1994) (4)

Klaus Maria Brandauer, Burt Weinshanker and Thomas Mann – Mario und der Zauberer (1994) (4)

Sophie is supposed to be 8 in the story but Mann says her body is more like that of 7. The screenwriter added more drama by including the sand fight instead of the girl just wishing to get sand out of her suit. Thus she removes her suit, wades into the ocean and rinses herself off before emerging.

Klaus Maria Brandauer, Burt Weinshanker and Thomas Mann - Mario und der Zauberer (1994) (5)

Klaus Maria Brandauer, Burt Weinshanker and Thomas Mann – Mario und der Zauberer (1994) (5)

Klaus Maria Brandauer, Burt Weinshanker and Thomas Mann - Mario und der Zauberer (1994) (6)

Klaus Maria Brandauer, Burt Weinshanker and Thomas Mann – Mario und der Zauberer (1994) (6)

Klaus Maria Brandauer, Burt Weinshanker and Thomas Mann - Mario und der Zauberer (1994) (7)

Klaus Maria Brandauer, Burt Weinshanker and Thomas Mann – Mario und der Zauberer (1994) (7)

The native beachgoers observe this phenomenon and stand up in shock, moving slowly toward her. I feel quite sure the director intended a Fellini-like moment here, expressing the Italian sensibility. They begin to protest and ridicule this innocent foreigner for her faux pas.

Klaus Maria Brandauer, Burt Weinshanker and Thomas Mann - Mario und der Zauberer (1994) (8)

Klaus Maria Brandauer, Burt Weinshanker and Thomas Mann – Mario und der Zauberer (1994) (8)

Another addition to the film is a bath scene afterward when Stephan enters and Sophie asks him to leave. Given that Stephan gave no thought to just entering unannounced shows that Sophie has become self-conscious by this event and is perhaps somewhat ashamed of her body.

Klaus Maria Brandauer, Burt Weinshanker and Thomas Mann - Mario und der Zauberer (1994) (9)

Klaus Maria Brandauer, Burt Weinshanker and Thomas Mann – Mario und der Zauberer (1994) (9)

Professor Fuhrmann is summoned by the mayor and made to pay 50 lire for his daughter’s disgrace. On the other hand, we soon get to see what the local people consider a wholesome display of youthful innocence: an event that includes these girls in uniform singing a patriotic song.

Klaus Maria Brandauer, Burt Weinshanker and Thomas Mann - Mario und der Zauberer (1994) (10)

Klaus Maria Brandauer, Burt Weinshanker and Thomas Mann – Mario und der Zauberer (1994) (10)

The professor attempts to defend himself in a public meeting—this is not in Mann’s story. At first, he seems to be doing well, but the more conservative members won’t have it and it stirs the attendees almost into a mob and the professor must make a hasty exit. Realizing the family is not accepted in this town, he calls the children in for a family meeting and explains that they must return home that afternoon. The children plead for him to allow them to stay until at least the next morning. You see, Cipolla is scheduled to make his big performance that night and they don’t want to miss it.

Klaus Maria Brandauer, Burt Weinshanker and Thomas Mann - Mario und der Zauberer (1994) (11)

Klaus Maria Brandauer, Burt Weinshanker and Thomas Mann – Mario und der Zauberer (1994) (11)

In Mann’s story, the children keep falling asleep and while the parents try to carry them out, they wake up and insist on seeing the rest of the performance. Cipolla shows off his devilish talents, even seducing women from their protesting husbands right in the audience, but the magician makes a fatal mistake that night. One of his subjects this time is Mario and he humiliates him by playing with his secret affections for a girl named Silvestra. In the original story, Mario becomes outraged and kills Cipolla. Since the magician in the film is played by the director, he turns the plot around and has Silvestra, shocked by the revelation, kill Mario instead. In one final expression of control, the audience applauds despite the grisly scene that just took place on the stage. Another addition in the film is one final expression of innocence and perhaps the insidious nature of fascism. On the train home, Sophie comes by the cabin wearing a hat and begins to perform a magic trick she learned in town.

Klaus Maria Brandauer, Burt Weinshanker and Thomas Mann - Mario und der Zauberer (1994) (12)

Klaus Maria Brandauer, Burt Weinshanker and Thomas Mann – Mario und der Zauberer (1994) (12)

It was interesting that Mann did not recognize the early rumblings of fascism in his own country. His masterpiece of Perennial Philosophy, Joseph und seine Brüder (Joseph and His Brothers) in four volumes, was interrupted by the turmoil of Nazism and the latter volumes have a distinctly different tone.

Child Labourers as Victims: Lewis Hine’s Photography (1908-1912)

Lewis Hine - Young mill worker, Newberry, SC (Dec. 1908)

Lewis Hine – Young mill worker, Newberry, SC (Dec. 1908)

To many contemporary Westerners, child labour appears as cruel and uncivilized. However, in all pre-industrial societies, there was no sharp demarcation between childhood and adulthood and children worked with adults—this was part of their education. In the European Middle Ages, childhood as we envisage it now lasted only a few years; at about age 7, the peasant child was working in the farm while urban children were sent to learn their trade as apprentices. There was no adolescence either, you were recognized as an adult (with full privileges and duties) at an age generally between 13 and 15.

Some schools existed, but they could be attended part-time, and there were pupils of various ages in the same class. As printing did not exist and paper was expensive, without manuals nor the possibility of taking notes, pupils learned by hearing the same lessons being read by the master year after year, so you found on the same bench newcomers and regular listeners.

The modern structure of the nuclear family, its view as a haven of peace, and the concomitant conception of childhood as state of vulnerability and innocence, stratified by age categories, arose progressively in Western Europe between the 13th and the 18th century, see Philippe Ariès, L’Enfant et la Vie Familiale sous l’Ancien Régime (1973) (translated in English with some inaccuracies under the title Centuries of Childhood). However child labour survived this social transformation, and it accompanied the Industrial Revolution:

“In the United States rapid industrialization after the Civil War (1861–1865) increased the child labor force and introduced new occupations for children. According to the nationwide census of 1870 about one out of every eight children in the United States was employed. By 1900 approximately 1,750,000 children, or one out of six, had wagework. Sixty percent were agricultural workers, and of the 40 percent in industry over half were children of immigrant families.” On the other hand, “in preindustrial and rural Canada families needed children for the work they could do. The immigrant children worked as farm laborers and domestic servants.” Despite modernization, old stereotypes survived: “Child labor was gender divided. Whereas boys worked in industries such as sawmills and coal mines, girls worked in the textile and garment industries.” (Internet FAQ Archives, Child Labor in the West)

Lewis Hine - Josie, Bertha and Sophie, regular shuckers, Maggioni Canning Co., Port Royal, SC (Feb. 1911)

Lewis Hine – Josie, Bertha and Sophie, regular shuckers, Maggioni Canning Co., Port Royal, SC (Feb. 1911)

But opposition to child labour mounted at the end of the 19th century. “Whereas child labor was considered both economically valuable and ethical in preindustrialized societies, it was increasingly understood as uncivilized as industrialization progressed.” It is generally thought that laws limiting or banning child labour arose from the fight of labour unions, like the 8-hour working day. In fact, “many working-class parents saw little advantage to keeping their children in school instead of the workplace.” (Internet FAQ Archive, National Child Labor Committee) Indeed:

“Figures from the United States indicate that children were likely to contribute about one-third of family income by the time the adult male was in his fifties. In Europe, children’s contributions were even greater; about 41 percent when the head was in his fifties, and in some cases even higher.” (Child Labor in the West)

The fight against child labour was waged mainly by upper and middle-class philanthropists, clergymen and politicians.

“A crusade against child labor developed in most Western countries in the late nineteenth century. The modern order of childhood demanded actions against the “social evil” and for child labor laws. The child labor laws were hardly effective, as they did not provide for sufficient enforcement. Compulsory schooling laws were more effective, and the debates on child labor had an educative impact as well. States, educationalists, politicians, and philanthropists joined in the efforts to get children out of the factories and into school.” (Child Labor in the West)

Lewis Hine - Millie Cornaro, 10yo, picking cranberries, White's Bog, Browns Mills, NJ (Sep. 28, 1910)

Lewis Hine – Millie Cornaro, 10yo, picking cranberries, White’s Bog, Browns Mills, NJ (Sep. 28, 1910)

Although agriculture accounted for 60 percent of child labour, it was strangely spared by that campaign: “While children working in agriculture seemed consistent with America’s past history, to many Americans youngsters laboring for meager wages in industry seemed brutal and cruel.” (National Child Labor Committee) This distinction could not be argued on the basis of health or working conditions:

“How were the conditions for child laborers in industry compared with agriculture? In France, research shows that industrialization intensified work for some children, as workdays in factories were long and more structured. On the other hand, rural life in late-nineteenth-century France was rigorous and primitive, and young men from certain rural areas were more often rejected for military service than young men from cities, challenging the “misery history” of industrial child labor.” (Child Labor in the West)

I think that the real reason behind this double standard is moralistic. At that time, bourgeois philanthropists were afraid of delinquency in the cities, especially in the urban working-class youth, and they set about to “save” working-class children from vice, see The Child Savers by Anthony Platt.

Lewis Hine - Madeline Causey, 10yo, Merrimack Mills, Huntsville, AL (Nov. 1913)

Lewis Hine – Madeline Causey, 10yo, Merrimack Mills, Huntsville, AL (Nov. 1913)

In the United States, efforts by politicians, philanthropists and clergymen, in particular the Reverend Edgar Gardner Murphy, an Episcopalian minister, the National Child Labor Committee (NCLC) was established in 1904. It was greatly helped by the field work of the sociologist and photographer Lewis Wickes Hine (September 26, 1874 – November 3, 1940) for its campaign.

“The committee helped organize local committees in every state where child labor existed, held traveling exhibits, and was the first organized reform movement to make wide use of photographic propaganda. In 1915 the NCLC published 416 newspapers and distributed more than four million pages of propaganda materials. The propaganda promoted—here and elsewhere—changing attitudes and practices regarding childhood. The well-known photographer LEWIS HINE was one of the NCLC’s crusaders. In 1908 Hine resigned from his job as a teacher and devoted his full career to photography and to his work as a reporter for the NCLC.” (Child Labor in the West)

Hine spent several years photographing thousands children and adolescents who worked for a wage. With each photograph he included information on the location, sometimes on the age of children, and added some comment. These pictures are widely found on the Internet, with varying quality, either in sepia or in grey. The National Child Labor Committee Collection of the Library of Congress contains 5130 pictures, free of copyright; they generally exist in both sepia and grey, and in different sizes. I have chosen a few of them, in sepia and large size; the following 3 can also be found (in grey only) on The Authentic History Center’s webpage Child Labor Photographs of Lewis Hine, with a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0) copyright.

Lewis Hine - Cotton mill workers (Jan. 22, 1909)

Lewis Hine – Cotton mill workers (Jan. 22, 1909)

Hine’s comment: “Two of the ‘helpers’ in the Tifton Cotton Mill, Tifton, Ga. They work regularly. Location: Tifton, Georgia.

Lewis Hine - Spinner glimpses the outside world (Nov. 11, 1908)

Lewis Hine – Spinner glimpses the outside world (Nov. 11, 1908)

Hine’s comment: “Rhodes Mfg. Co., Lincolnton, N.C. Spinner. A moments glimpse of the outer world. Said she was 10 years old. Been working over a year. Location: Lincolnton, North Carolina.”

Lewis Hine - Selling Radishes (Aug. 22, 1908)

Lewis Hine – Selling Radishes (Aug. 22, 1908)

Hine’s comment: “‘Radishes! Penny a bunch!’ Sixth St. Market, Cincinnati. 10 P.M. Saturday. Boys and girls sell all day, and until 11 P.M. Aug.22, 1908. Location: Cincinnati, Ohio.

The following high-quality image comes from Wikipedia:

Lewis Hine - Little Lottie, regular oyster shucker (1911)

Lewis Hine – Little Lottie, regular oyster shucker (1911)

Hine’s comment: “Little Lottie, a regular oyster shucker in Alabama Canning Co. She speaks no English. Note the condition of her shoes… Location: Bayou La Batre, Alabama.

Finally, campaigns such as that of the NCLC succeeded in bringing children out of factories and into schools:

“Why did child labor decrease around the turn of the twentieth century in Western societies? An increase in children’s school attendance is part of the explanation. Research from Sweden, Denmark, and Chicago indicates that one of the key motives for the introduction of compulsory schooling laws was to control and abolish child labor. In Norway the number of days at school increased by 50 percent from 1880 to 1914. At that time children were schoolchildren and part-time workers.” (Child Labor in the West)

Note however that fighting child labour was not the only reason for the introduction of compulsory schooling:

“A comparison of Western societies demonstrates that state enactment of compulsory schooling is not explained by economic factors, such as level of industrialization or urbanization. Some countries implemented compulsory schooling well before industrializing. The earliest state to do so, Prussia, illustrates the noneconomic motive behind enacting compulsory schooling. Enacting compulsory schooling was a means to reinvigorate national solidarity in a context where traditional, external modes of authority were weakening. Compulsory schooling was a form of nation-building, foreshadowing the larger historical movement to broaden the rights of individuals as citizens and linking this to an expanded moral jurisdiction of state authority. In contrast, England, a comparative late-comer to compulsory schooling, enacted its Elementary Education Act of 1870, well after taking the lead in inaugurating industrialization. Yet, like Prussia, a weak showing at the Paris Exhibition of 1867 signaled a threat to its international stature, in turn challenging traditional means of authority and technical training. The prompt to reinvigorate national solidarity fueled a sense of urgency and thereby gave legitimacy to an extension of state authority over universal primary education.” (Compulsory School Attendance)

Also, “for the American states […] the timing of enactment must be viewed within the broader context of national formation.

“Compulsory school attendance laws passed during the latter half of the nineteenth century represented more than the cessation of voluntary schooling; they formalized a significant broadening of state authority and its assumption of responsibility for the education of children.”

Lewis Hine - Immigrant children, Washington School, Boston, MA (Oct 1909)

Lewis Hine – Immigrant children, Washington School, Boston, MA (Oct 1909)

For instance, in France, one of the objectives of the secular state schools established by Julles Ferry was to instill patriotism and anti-German chauvinism in children, in particular through an unrelenting insistence on the fight to recover the province of Alsace-Lorraine, annexed by Germany after the 1870-1871 war. Millions of young French young men educated in these schools died in the trenches of WWI, after which France recovered Alsace-Lorraine.

Finally in 1933, Franklin D. Roosevelt’s administration, pressured by child welfare advocates and labour unions, included child labor regulations in the 1933 National Industrial Recovery Act (National Child Labor Committee). Teenagers were taken out of the job market and sent back to high schools, but the real reason was now mass unemployment: the jobs previously held by youths were given to their elders.

In this way the Western conception of childhood and and adolescence was finally achieved:

“By legally positing universal schooling as a common goal, the laws helped to structure the social and legal categories of childhood and ADOLESCENCE that have become integral to American culture generally and to the organization of American education in particular.” (Compulsory School Attendance) “According to a new regime that condemned child labor, children were supposed to PLAY and go to school. The schoolchild as norm was gradually perceived as “natural” and “universal.” As history is a way of seeing the past through the filters of the present, the complexity of child labor in the past turned out to be difficult to depict.” (Child Labor in the West)

Concomitant to compulsory schooling at higher ages was the raising of the legal age of sexual consent in Western countries, see for instance Martin Killias, “The emergence of a new taboo: the desexualization of youth in Western societies since 1800”, European Journal on Criminal Policy and Research 8:459–477, 2000. Another result of crusades to “save” children is the specific judicial system for minors; as explained by Anthony Platt in The Child Savers, under the pretext of “protecting” youth, this system remains harsh, while it deprives youth of all constitutional rights granted to adults facing trial.

Campaigns to “save” working-class children, in particular the one of the NCLC and Hine presenting child labourers as victims, were ideological. Many photographed children do not give themselves the appearance of victims, they are sometimes smiling (see the above two little cotton mill workers); anyway they look courageous.

One of the most famous photographs by Hine is the one of Addie Card, a girl spinner looking weary; this iconic photo appeared on a US postage stamp in 1998. I reproduce it from Wikipedia:

Lewis Hine - Addie Card (Aug. 1910)

Lewis Hine – Addie Card (Aug. 1910)

Hine commented: “Addie Card, 12 years. Anemic little spinner in North Pownal Cotton Mill. Vt. Girls in mill say she is ten years. She admitted to me she was twelve; that she started during school vacation and now would ‘stay.’ Location: North Pownal, Vermont, August 1910.

I deny Hine the medical qualification to diagnose the disease of anemia. However, the historian and freelance journalist Joe Manning has published on his website Mornings on Maple Street a magnificent Lewis Hine Project, which includes a fascinating search for the real life of Addie Card. I summarize here his findings.

Joe Manning - Gravestone of Addie Card (2005)

Joe Manning – Gravestone of Addie Card (2005)

Addie was born on December 6, 1897; she was thus 12-year-old when Hine photographed her. In 1915, she married fellow mill worker Edward Hatch, but later they divorced, and she married Ernest LaVigne six weeks after. In her lifetime, she had a great-great-grandchild. She died on July 19, 1993, at the venerable age of 95. She is buried in Cohoes, New York.

LaVigne family - Addie Card with great-great-grandchild Sierra, and great-granddaughters Piperlea and Kim

LaVigne family – Addie Card with great-great-grandchild Sierra, and great-granddaughters Piperlea and Kim

Not bad for an “anemic”! But what about her weariness in Hine’s photograph? Joe Manning and his friend Elizabeth Winthrop interviewed Piperlea and Cathleen LaVigne (see the 8th page of Manning’s search). As one can read in it, Addie suffered from psychological abuse on the part of her father:

Joe: Did she tell you anything about working in the mill as a child?
Piperlea: She told me about how hard it was working in the mill, that she had to quit school in the fourth grade to go to work, about her father disowning her, and how it was so awful not to have your parents’ love.
[…]
Cathleen: […] She told me that when she was 12, she had a nervous breakdown. She was confined to bed for almost a year.
[…]
Elizabeth: What did she mean by a nervous breakdown?
Piperlea: I remember her telling me that she had a lot of mental anguish from her father. He blamed Addie for her mother’s ultimate demise. He blamed it on the childbirth. He said it was her fault.
Elizabeth: The death record shows that she died of peritonitis, which is an infection in the abdominal cavity, sometimes caused by appendicitis.
Piperlea: But he threw the guilt on her. She told me, ‘My birth was the cause of my mother’s death, and her death was the cause of my father disowning me.’

Hine had looked at Addie with coloured glasses. It was not anemia, nor work, that made her sad and weary, but her own father.

References:

Update (2015/08/14): I have found a Lewis Hine Photographs site containing over 5000 child labour pictures by Hine.

Corporate Mentality and the Invisible Artist

As I have said many times, I am an avid reader of non-fiction. I have noticed over the years that people or organizations with certain political ideas tend to discuss issues in a specific way based on a set of assumed principles. It sometimes feels like they are following a script and, in some cases, they may be. One of the most pronounced examples is the way corporations communicate to the public, most commonly called Public Relations (PR). The trouble with the corporation—expressed very well in the film The Corporation—is that no matter what service or product it purports to provide, its goal is to maximize profit for its shareholders. Naturally, these companies and conglomerates do not want the public to think in this way because it interferes with sales. Because of this, the most important department in any corporate entity is its PR department. It must somehow create the impression that it is serving its customers and generally offering something for the common good.

Artists are a necessary part of advertising and perhaps in the design of a product as well. However, because a company does not want the public to be privy to its use of labor—stories of child labor and virtual slave wages is ubiquitous—they must play down the value of that labor while convincing the public that they are good corporate citizens. Money is the bottom line and so even those with the needed talent are regarded as laborers; artists and craftsman in particular are usually not given the credit for the work they would if the companies had to follow some kind of guild rules.

A case in point is this charming advertising promoting Domini Social Investments.

(Unidentified Artist) - Domini Funds Promotional Art (2014)

(Unidentified Artist) – Domini Funds Promotional Art (2014)

This fund manager promotes itself as a responsible business by refusing to invest in stocks (or other financial products) involving weapons production or some other distasteful industry. If the PR is to be believed, people can feel good doing business with them because no harm is being done. This is naive since many large corporations have entangled relationships others making this almost impossible and what about this company’s own behavior? This work of art is not credited and there has been no reply to repeated requests for more information on the history of this piece.

I did get a response in the second case. I had seen these trading cards on sale on the web—featuring girls, naturally—and was thinking of doing a short post.

(Unidentified Artist) - Forever Clover Swap Card No. 136

(Unidentified Artist) – Forever Clover Swap Card No. 136

Since the images were of low quality, I had hoped to convince the company, Forever Clover®, to not only identify the artists who made these images, but send some higher-quality images for use in this post. Following a classic corporate script, I received an email expressly forbidding me to use their artwork or even link to their site. These threatening and lawyerly letters are commonplace and are made to intimidate people who are not well-versed in the law. I assure you that we have every right under international copyright law to present a sample of their product and criticize their company.

(Unidentified Artist) - Forever Clover Swap Card No. 194

(Unidentified Artist) – Forever Clover Swap Card No. 194

(Unidentified Artist) - Forever Clover Swap Card No. 191

(Unidentified Artist) – Forever Clover Swap Card No. 191

(No Artist) - Forever Clover Swap Card No. 185

(Unidentified Artist) – Forever Clover Swap Card No. 185

These trading cards come in a variety of themes; some are embossed and some are embedded with glitter. According to their website, Forever Clover was established in 2011 and celebrates young girls and their friendships. It started with swap cards for girls (age 4–11) to collect and trade and has expanded into novels and activity books. Their PR involves a blog and other forms of interaction meant to show an interest in the girls’ lives and promote brand loyalty. You can read more about their mandate here, but you will find they express a very superficial and saccharine sentiment clothed as wholesome values.

(Unidentified Artist) - Forever Clover Swap Card No. 158

(Unidentified Artist) – Forever Clover Swap Card No. 158

(Unidentified Artist) - Forever Clover Swap Card No. 171

(Unidentified Artist) – Forever Clover Swap Card No. 171

(Unidentified Artist) - Forever Clover Swap Card No. 88

(Unidentified Artist) – Forever Clover Swap Card No. 88

It should also be noted that whoever these artists are, they are not the copyright holders; the companies are.