Learning From Children


Marissa Bergmann
Digital Documentary Photography
December 2008

“The lover of nature is he whose inward and outward senses are still truly adjusted to each other; who has retained the spirit of infancy even into the era of manhood.”
~Ralph Waldo Emerson

The last part of this quote has made a lasting impression on me. Over the past year, I have wondered about what constitutes the turning point from childhood to adulthood and the extent to which the distinction between childhood and adulthood is socially constructed throughout history and across cultures. Is it really possible to maintain the “spirit of infancy” past what is termed childhood by contemporary society? I strongly believe so. The entire concept of childhood fascinates me; it is a perfect example of transition and change. There is no doubt that it involves stages of movement, development, and evolution, but I believe there are some things that can remain into adulthood and that adults can learn from children, namely the “spirit of infancy” and un-biased innocence through which the child sees the world. I chose to photograph at the West End Community Center because I believe in this ability to learn from the younger faces on this earth, and because of my passion for interacting with children and creating relationships. Children don’t ask me about what I’m majoring in, or what classes I’m taking; they ask about my name and favorite color and if I have a brother and what does my mother like to do? It is my goal in this project to tell a story that will capture the spontaneity, imagination, and spirit of childhood.

I’ve always loved interacting with kids, and these guys at West End are no exception. They are so full of energy and I enjoyed every minute working with them. I discovered a place that provides an awesome environment for children to learn, play, and interact; a place where there is a true sense of friendship, community, and life.

I photographed on ten different occasions beginning in October, and ended up taking over 1100 photographs. Choosing “just” 70 took longer than any other part of the process! At the end of it all, I am happy because I believe that my hard work and efforts capture not only some individual personalities and community among them, but also the spontaneity, imagination, and spirit of childhood that should last into all phases of life.