For our first Girls and Guns post we will feature a piece by German photographer Frank Rothe, from his German Guns series. Quite a bit of information is provided on Rothe’s website about this series, so I would recommend you take a look at the site. This particular photo is referenced specifically:
“In any hand the gun is a transformative object. It changes power in relationships. Yet in the portraits of ordinary people that Rothe has made, the gun often appears incongruous to the point of ridiculousness. A young adolescent girl, with pre-raphaelite hair, pale skin and an air of vulnerability looks wistfully at the camera, her slight form dwarfed by an enormous rifle, the barrel of which appears to be so long as almost to exceed the photographic frame.”
“These portraits are beautiful and affectionate. Their ability to disturb depends on the ordinariness of the people depicted. They are without polemic but they are not a-political.”
Indeed, and there is something both particularly disturbing and utterly intriguing about little girls with guns. I assume a good deal of both feelings originate out of the cultural stereotype of the young girl as a meek and inherently non-aggressive being (a stereotype—along with the girl as innately sexually innocent—that Sharon Lamb explodes in her excellent book The Secret Lives of Girls; indeed, this series is quite timely, given the recent death of an infant at the hands of a 10-year-old girl), because these images/ideas generate cognitive dissonance in us but also something of a revelation. We are transfixed by the idea of girls capable of violence, perhaps because we are comforted by the idea of them being able to defend themselves against the Big Bad Wolves of the world without the help of the Woodsman. But is it realistic? Not in all cases, certainly, but if this blog is about anything, it is that we should never overlook or underestimate young girls, or treat them as anything but complex and variable human beings, just like the rest of us.