When We Were Young: Exploring the magic and wonder of childhood throughout the ages

in Inspiration / Photography

Perhaps it's a sign of the times, but there's been a societal trend of late for examining the experience of childhood. Whether looking at photographs taken recently, or at those from five decades ago, the fashions may change but children are always children.

This is the subject of an upcoming exhibition at the Scottish National Portrait Gallery (SNPG), for When We Were Young. Delving into the rich collection of the National Galleries of Scotland, it explores how the lives of children have fascinated photographers, from the earliest days of the medium right through to the present.

More than 100 images, which capture children at play, at work, at school and at home will reveal how the experience of being a child, and the ways in which they have been represented, have changed radically in the past 175 years.

The photographs not only reveal the shifting attitudes towards children and their representation, but also show the evolution of the photographic processes from early daguerreotypes to contemporary digital prints.

The exhibition explores the notion of play, a subject synonymous with childhood. From portraits of Victorian children with their dolls and books to explorations of today’s virtual playground, the photographs reveal that while children may have vastly different toys from the past compared with the present day, there is still the desire to escape into a world of make-believe and imagination.

When We Were Young opens on 14 October 2017, and runs until 15 April 2018 at the Scottish National Portrait Gallery. Visit nationalgalleries.org for more details.

Main image: MacMahon of Aberdeen, Giant Cod, 1908, Carbon print, 43.50 x 59.50 cm. Collection: National Galleries of Scotland

David Williams, 'Primary School Teacher' from 'Pictures from No Man's Land', 1984 Silver gelatine print, 35.60 x 35.60 cm © David Williams Collection: National Galleries of Scotland

David Williams, 'Primary School Teacher' from 'Pictures from No Man's Land', 1984 Silver gelatine print, 35.60 x 35.60 cm © David Williams Collection: National Galleries of Scotland

Larry Herman, Red Road Flats; Glasgow, 1974-76 (printed 2015) Silver gelatine print, 42.60 x 29.70 cm © Larry Herman Collection: National Galleries of Scotland

Larry Herman, Red Road Flats; Glasgow, 1974-76 (printed 2015) Silver gelatine print, 42.60 x 29.70 cm © Larry Herman Collection: National Galleries of Scotland

Roger Mayne, Children playing on a lorry, Glasgow, 1958 Silver gelatine print, 28.20 x 38.20 cm © Katkin Tremayne

Roger Mayne, Children playing on a lorry, Glasgow, 1958 Silver gelatine print, 28.20 x 38.20 cm © Katkin Tremayne

Wendy McMurdo, Girl with Bears, Royal Museum of Scotland, Edinburgh, 1999 C-Type print on aluminium, 120.00 x 120.00 cm © Wendy McMurdo. All Rights Reserved, DACS 2017

Wendy McMurdo, Girl with Bears, Royal Museum of Scotland, Edinburgh, 1999 C-Type print on aluminium, 120.00 x 120.00 cm © Wendy McMurdo. All Rights Reserved, DACS 2017

Julia Margaret Cameron, The red and white roses, 1865 Albumen print, 25.80 x 22.60 cm Collection: National Galleries of Scotland

Julia Margaret Cameron, The red and white roses, 1865 Albumen print, 25.80 x 22.60 cm Collection: National Galleries of Scotland

Paul Strand, John Angus MacDonald, South Uist, Hebrides, 1954 Gelatine silver print, 11.4 x 14.6 cm © Paul Strand Archive

Paul Strand, John Angus MacDonald, South Uist, Hebrides, 1954 Gelatine silver print, 11.4 x 14.6 cm © Paul Strand Archive

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