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Wednesday, 23 January 2008

Wendy Ewald

I love Wendy Ewald's work, which also brings photography to the street. She has worked with children across the world for over 30 years, giving children cameras and helping them photograph their dreams and nightmares. The resulting images portray childhoods filled with anxiety, violence and death. “Death is usual for children,” says Ewald. “We try to censor it and sweep it away, but their fears are so vivid and visual. There are a lot of violent urges in childhood.”

One recent project and book, Towards A Promised Land took her to Margate, England (where Tracey Emin comes from - rough old place) where she worked with immigrant children. She made large format prints, which the children wrote on and then blew them up and exhibited them around the town. It was a great project, but it was undermined in some ways by its very nature - the children were diverse, their dreams were diverse, and Margate is not the kind of socially coherent place Ewald normally works in. In addition, the project was overshadowed by being part of a wider, over-ambitious Exodus day (there was music, the burning of Anthony Gormley's Waste Man, and Penny Woolcock made a dodgy film).

Still, Ewald provided a human and intelligent perspective on one of the major issues in the UK today - and one which UK photography has barely touched on in a meaningful (and public) way. Ewald’s attempts to broaden understanding through art did not go down well with all the locals. “In the first week I was there, we were egged and two of the posters were petrol bombed after the London bombings. Some people were very angry.”

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