Laid up for more than two weeks with an exasperating virus that's left me with no physical energy and fragmented concentration span, I'm looking through some very old negatives.
I don't know who the kiddy on the left is, but from the context I can be certain that she lived in northern France in the early spring of 1974 ... so must be in her forties now. It's not a memorable photograph, but put that aside for the moment. I probably took it as a subconscious or even conscious background pursuance of the module on “The young individual and society”, for which I would at that time have been preparing my final paper.
Looking at this picture I am struck by the fact that I would, today, be constrained in taking a photograph of a child (particularly a girl child) in a place where I was an itinerant stranger.
Those were, in some ways, more innocent times ... though also times of greater denial.
I was, at the time, considering a career as a child social worker ... a career for which I was probably profoundly unsuited. Looking back, had I embarked on that career I would have discovered that a dark veil hid many childhoods from the sort of sunny light which had imbued my own – and I'm glad that it has been at least partially drawn aside in the decades since, even if comparatively rare “stranger danger” gets unrealistically disproportionate attention compared to the far more prevalent family abuse.
Since then, I have been married to one courageous abuse survivor and have now spent more than twenty years with a partner working in exactly that career path which I didn't take. There have been exposed scandals from Magdalen Laundries and Catholic abuse cases through care home abuse rings to the Jimmy Saville furoré. I would not for one moment ask that the clock be turned back.
And yet ... looking at this photograph I do also, simultaneously, feel sad that I probably wouldn't, today, take it. It's not a particularly good picture in itself; but the fact of its possibility feels important.