on 18 April 2014
Frances Kearney's photographs ask questions of the viewer. In her book `Running Wild' she asks us to think about children and their place in nature, in the man-made world and in the hinterland of ghostly spaces we have no names for. Without being didactic, she forces us to confront uncomfortable places in which girls are left to fend for themselves, to create or perhaps to dream, unwatched, unchaperoned and unaware for the first time in their lives. Are they the last people on the planet or the first? This latter question brings up Kearney's link to J.G. Ballard whose work has influenced her use of nature and narrative.
I have been following Kearney's work for about six years. As a woman, and someone who identifies as a feminist, I find her photographs intriguing and visually alluring. So much art that deals with women's identities suffers from being reduced or simplified by its own subject matter. Yet, like the characters in the stories of Alice Munro, Kearney's girls represent something much more than a reductivist view of young women and how they should act, they represent the human in us, the visceral, probing life force that we all must tame in order to survive.
This beautifully produced book is necessary for anyone interested in where photography is now. Somehow Kearney has produced a body of work in which girls - the most watched and commented upon segment of our society - are perceived in moments of almost mundane reverie whilst somehow appearing completely unaware of their role as subjects/objects. These photos are beautiful, photographic conundrums. With the greatest control, Kearney has given us something very wild and almost dangerous. It is a stunning body of work and a wonderful book.
on 22 April 2014
I was thrilled to be given this book, after admiring a print of Frances Kearney’s on a friend’s wall. That image was beautiful, extraordinary – and huge: a photograph of a girl apparently balancing on a half-submerged drum in an unremarkable lake in a deserted landscape. It looked like a still from a film I wished I’d seen. Enigmatic and compelling, it instantly started stories running in my head. What had just happened? What was going to happen? The girl was poised on a knife edge of possibility. It might have been me, aged 11. I wanted to see more.
This book is just as intriguing. A collection of curious scenes, meticulously composed - and yet apparently glimpsed by chance and from a distance - of one or two girls in the middle of some obscure endeavour. They are physically lovely, but never cute. Frances Kearney has an uncanny knack for creating, in a single frame, a rich and complex world in which the viewer is drawn in to conjure their own narrative from intriguing and disparate elements. I only wish I had one on my wall, 5 feet wide.
on 18 April 2014
The photographs are remarkable - 'painterly' in composition but with a strong narrative element. The viewer feels that (s)he has been dropped into the middle of a story. In these beautifully constructed landscapes, the adult world (and all its works) is abandoned, and the natural world runs wild. These forgotten places are where the children (always girls) go to pursue their purposeful (but mysterious) tasks. One of the essays in the book - there are three very readable, useful essays - suggests that the girls are vulnerable. But to me, despite the remoteness of the locations, there is nothing threatening in these landscapes. The girls have chosen these places precisely because they are neglected, because the adult world has moved out of them. It is in these places which adults have no use for that the children can be properly themselves.
This is a haunting set of photographs. I recommend the book, especially if you missed the exhibition.
on 20 April 2014
This handsome book raises many questions about childhood, past and present. In an era where there is much discussion about children spending too much time in front of screens as well as nostalgia about a freer, more active childhood versus the awful stories of school trips gone wrong and children going missing, the photographs in these books raise many questions. The images are beautiful in themselves - young girls in natural and slightly unnatural settings - shot with beautiful light and a haunting quality. But they are extremely thought-provoking: are the girls playing? In danger? Happy? Safe? It's the perfect combination for a 'coffee table' book - the photographs captivating enough to merit just spending time looking through them, but engaging and provoking enough to want to make time to read the accompanying essays.
on 27 April 2014
This is a beautiful, thoughtful and contemplative book which also somehow manages to be dystopian and eerie. The technical skill on display is beyond doubt, but it is the composition which really sticks in the memory. This wasn't my childhood, by gender, era or location, but it resonates at a shared, unconscious level and is powerfully effective. A wonderful book and highly recommended.
on 12 April 2014
This book brings together a wonderful set of photographs which are all compelling in their depiction of childhood dreams, fantasies and behaviour. The pictures sit somewhere between being completely natural and staged like a filmset. In real life the photographs are even better, but this collection is a very useful overview of Kearney's work - and has good contextualising essays.