I came across an article on Mail Online, which showcased photographer Robert Frank’s pictures documenting early 1950s London. They’re so striking; I think they’re fantastic. It made me look for further examples of his work and during my Internet travels I came across another photo by a different photographer (Weegee) that also really struck me. This one was from the 1930s and was taken in NYC, but it, and one of Frank’s, did have an element in common: children playing out unsupervised.
My mum was horrendously paranoid about, and overprotective of, my brother and I, yet we were still allowed to play out. In my case, this usually consisted of a few of us riding about on our bikes, which, as I lived in Streatham in South-West London, often meant cycling around various blocks of terrace houses. I had to check back every 20 minutes (so probably a bit different from the playing out of my mum’s generation), but despite her anxieties I did get to enjoy this freedom – and loved it.
I do worry about many things relating to the kids, but I know I’m not nearly as anxious as my mum was. However, after looking at these photos and thinking back to my own childhood, I said to my husband that I couldn’t imagine for a moment letting our eldest play out in the streets. He agreed that it wouldn’t happen. I certainly wouldn’t let her (or my younger two) sit in front of the TV or play on games consoles for hours on end instead, but I can’t foresee ever allowing them to just go out and be left to their own devices. We live in what I’d class as a fairly ‘safe area,’ yet I don’t see other children playing out either, so I know it’s not just us.
It makes me feel a bit sad.