Compelling Images: Mary Ellen Mark

Mary Ellen Mark – The Damm family in their car, Los Angeles, California, 1987

A phenomenon that embodies the disinterested cruelty of Time is hiding in plain view. I first noticed it several decades ago whilst walking down my town’s high street.

A small family was approaching me from the opposite direction. The two parents looked to be in their early to mid-twenties, my own age at the time. But their appearance betrayed, maybe even boasted, the harshness of their lives—a harshness arising maybe from adverse circumstances (the economic base of the region had recently been destroyed), but also from bad living, as evidenced by the cigarettes, the tattoos, what looked like needle marks on the mother’s arm, their loud speech, laced with obscenities, and the father’s strutting walk that signaled a readiness for violence.

Between them skipped a girl of about six whose unspoiled delicacy was reminiscent of an upper-class child in a period drama. She was strikingly beautiful, with inquiring, intelligent eyes, and a face still friendly to the world. Her physique and her bearing had the sprung vigour of a young wild animal.

Despite the contrast between this girl and the adults who accompanied her there could be no doubt as to their kinship: both the man and the woman were recognisable in the girl’s features. And presumably the mother, when a little girl, had looked as beautiful and unspoiled as her daughter did now.

The family in Mary Ellen Mark’s photograph (Crissy aged 6, Jesse 4, their mother Linda 27 and stepfather Dean 33) were homeless and living in their car when Mark spent a week with them in 1987.

The photograph contains a grim equation: we can subtract the appearance of little Crissy from that of Linda, her mother. The resulting difference is the sum of the physical changes Time brings plus the traces that Life has left on Linda.

Time simultaneously grows us and wears us away. We are like young mountains that are simultaneously raised up by tectonic movements and eroded by the harshness of the environment, leaving crags, crevices, alluvium, screes, glaciers and valleys on their surface.

The article accompanying Mark’s photos (written by journalist Anne Fadiman) makes it clear that when this photo was taken Crissy was already all too familiar with the difficulties of life. But they had not yet left a visible trace. Eight years later Mary Ellen Mark would revisit the Damm family. In the resulting photographs Crissy’s appearance has begun to speak eloquently of the life she has been made to lead.

Compelling Images: Diane Arbus

Diane Arbus – A Child Crying, New Jersey (1967)

There’s something magical about a lens, especially the kind you find on the medium-format film camera that Diane Arbus used for this photograph.

These lenses present to the world a large, perfectly smooth convex surface (of a diameter to be measured in inches, not millimeters). Beyond this is a tunnel enclosing multiple glass surfaces receding into darkness, each surface giving off its own little distorted reflection.

Children of this girl’s age are fascinated by such lenses. They come up close and stare into their depths. If you let them, they will press their eye up against them.  Most photographers are unhappy about this; toddlers tend to be sticky with sugar, crumbs, tears, saliva and worse. And lenses are awkward to clean, easily damaged and expensive.

But Diane Arbus knew that great photographs don’t happen when you’re trying to keep your equipment clean. She also knew that the best portraits are a kind of love triangle in which the photographer, the subject and the lens exert an equal fascination on one another.  This photograph would be thrown out of many photography competitions and photo-clubs; it breaks too many “rules”.  For a start, a crying child is not a fit subject for a photograph and the photographer should have used a longer focal length and put more distance between herself and the subject.  But what is the right viewing distance for photographing a crying toddler?

We don’t comfort crying babies at arms-length, but hold them tight against us. The world of this photograph is that of the hands-dirty parent, not of the professional baby photographer, paid to present babyhood at its most appealing and reassuring.

The girl is poised on the knife-edge between two states: the self-absorption of crying and a reengagement with the world.  At first it’s not clear in which direction this transition is heading: is this a happy child provoked to tears by the attentions of a lady pushing a camera in her face? or is this an unhappy child being distracted from her crying by the strange object she’s been presented with?  The girl’s eyes are so powerful that it takes a few moments to notice the signs that the girl had already been crying when Arbus intervened and stanched her tears—the flushed cheeks, those perfect tears rolling down her jaws.

Looking at this photograph I have to remind myself that it is normal and healthy for children of this age to cry like this.  Not only does the intensity of her crying seem disproportionate to its likely cause, but the suffering expressed seems to exceed what a human mind and body can experience or endure.  This is probably a result of misapplied empathy; when I see a child crying like this I effectively ask myself the question: what would it take to make me to cry like this?  And I can imagine no loss, heartbreak or sorrow that could bring me to the tears, which, in a child of this age, are provoked by maybe the softest of falls or a refused lolly.

Child Emancipation

*** Spoiler Alert ***

With our recent troubles, my thoughts have been occupied with those guardian angels who have helped us in the past and those who continue to do so today. Therefore this post is dedicated to “Liquid” who handled the technical end of getting our site up and running again after first being shut down by WordPress. In one of our few communications, he mentioned one of his favorite films starring a sweet little girl called Maisie. What Maisie Knew (2012) is the latest remake of a story based on a novel by Henry James. It is about a neglected girl who bonds with her nannies and, in the end, exerts her independence by expressing her wish to stay with them. The theme of the story reminded me of a film years ago called Irreconcilable Differences (1984) starring Drew Barrymore. This inferior film starred Shelley Long and Ryan O’Neal as Casey’s parents. It had a clever hook; at the time, there was a California law that allowed for minors to “divorce” their parents and take adult responsibilities for themselves. The intent of this law was for older teens—who were close to legal adulthood anyway—to escape the abuses of the foster care system or neglectful parents. The unusual thing in this story was that the girl suing for emancipation was 9 years old. Her wish was to live with the housekeeper and her children. It is an intriguing idea but the fact of the matter is that this movie was guilty of child neglect itself. Instead of telling the story from Casey’s point of view, her testimony was simply used to showcase the retelling of the drama of her parents’ relationship working in the brutal world of Hollywood film production.

Charles Shyer and Nancy Meyers – Irreconcilable Differences (1984)

On the other hand, the latest incarnation of Maisie directed by Scott McGehee and David Siegel, screenplay by Nancy Doyne and Carroll Cartwright, was a delight. Six-year-old Maisie (Onata Aprile) gave a skilled and convincing performance. Her mother Susanna (Julianne Moore) is in an updated role as a music diva engrossed in her career. It was decided that the early scenes should reflect her parents’ more nurturing sides. Although Moore is a performer, this was the first time she was recorded as a singer—singing a bedtime lullaby.

Scott McGehee, David Siegel et al – What Maisie Knew (2012) (1)

Maisie’s father Beale (Steve Coogan) was a high-stakes business man travelling all the time. One of the motifs of the film was that Maisie should be surrounded in animal imagery to accentuate the difference between her world and that of the grownups.

Scott McGehee, David Siegel et al – What Maisie Knew (2012) (2)

Aprile was a remarkably disciplined actress for her age. She had barely turned six when she was cast. Her mother Valentine Aprile dedicatedly ran lines with her and was present on the set during shooting. Valentine played a small role in the film as one of the mothers of Maisie’s classmates.

Scott McGehee, David Siegel et al – What Maisie Knew (2012) (3)

The only time Onata’s discipline would be broken was when food was present. Good directors of children know how to make use of these foibles and there were a number of ad libs that made it into the final cut—usually the girl’s idle but effective manipulation of the various props—making her performance that much more real. For example, while assembling a peanut butter sandwich, Aprile could not help licking her fingers.

Scott McGehee, David Siegel et al – What Maisie Knew (2012) (4)

We are introduced to Margo (Joanna Vanderham) in the first scene.as Maisie’s nanny. At first she is working for the mother but, as an added bit of turmoil in Maisie’s life, she falls in love with and marries Beale and thereafter is only present in the father’s household. Instead of the girl’s father properly explaining the situation, Margo is left to look after Maisie’s well-being by explaining things the best she could.

Scott McGehee, David Siegel et al – What Maisie Knew (2012) (5)

With Margo living with the father, one of Susanna’s groupies Lincoln (Alexander Skarsgård) was abruptly tasked with running domestic errands including shuttling Maisie around. The first time he did this, no one was informed so Margo and the school personnel were quite nervous about turning over custody without some verbal confirmation from Susanna. These days, we are so conditioned to expect the worst since the decision to send Lincoln was made in haste and we did not really know him yet. There are two amusing details about the Aprile-Skarsgård relationship. For some reason Aprile really took to Skarsgård and loved spending time with him on and off the set. One of the demonstrations of her skill as an actress was persuading us that she was actually nervous about being passed off to Lincoln. The other thing was that Skarsgård was quite tall and getting the two of them together in the same shot was a continuous logistical challenge.

Scott McGehee, David Siegel et al – What Maisie Knew (2012) (6)

During the course of the film, Maisie is seen spending a lot of quality time with her nannies—sometimes at the same time. In these scenes, she is actively involved with the adults. In contrast, except in those cases when the parents are lavishing her with compensatory attention, whenever Maisie is observing the adults, the directors established the convention of shooting her behind some kind of obstacle or barrier to help convey this alienation.

Scott McGehee, David Siegel et al – What Maisie Knew (2012) (7)

The neglect becomes progressively more horrific as Susanna goes on tour and Beale travels overseas. The situation reaches a climax when Maisie’s mother leaves her unattended at the bar where Lincoln works because she neglected to confirm the arrangements. Beale’s neglect takes its most severe form when Margo is locked out of their apartment and cannot get in because he did not bother to put his own wife’s name on the lease. Aprile really enjoyed those scenes with the young couple and movie-goers begin to realize that they had fallen in love during the course of this drama. By all accounts, this is when Aprile gets to display her real personality. She was reported saying that she hoped her next film would be a happier one because she dislikes having to be “so sad” all the time in this one. While both parents were away, Margo took Maisie away on a kind of retreat to a beach house on Long Island owned by her uncle; they are shortly joined by Lincoln.

Scott McGehee, David Siegel et al – What Maisie Knew (2012) (8)

Scott McGehee, David Siegel et al – What Maisie Knew (2012) (9)

When Susanna arrives later in her tour bus, assuming that Maisie would be delighted at the prospect of joining her, she is surprised to learn that she would rather stay with Margo and Lincoln. In a frank and heartfelt moment, Susanna finally realized how unhappy Maisie had been and in a selfless act of love, allowed her to stay with them.

Scott McGehee, David Siegel et al – What Maisie Knew (2012) (10)

Scott McGehee, David Siegel et al – What Maisie Knew (2012) (11)

Scott McGehee, David Siegel et al – What Maisie Knew (2012) (12)

The point of James’ novel was to show an uncharacteristically self-possessed little girl take a hand in her own happiness. Although her future was far from certain, she at least had some say in shaping it. At the end of the pier was docked a boat and in the last shot, she is shown running toward it in anticipation of another outing, another adventure.

Scott McGehee, David Siegel et al – What Maisie Knew (2012) (13)

Compelling Images: William Klein

Another fan of our site has agreed to write for us.  His proposal was to write a series about single compelling images, usually by noted photographers.  I really appreciate his contribution and remind readers that others are always encouraged to offer their writing to on-topic images.  -Ron

William Klein – Dance in Brooklyn , New York (1955)

We generally prefer depictions of people to be clear and legible. If a person is out of focus, or too far away to assert their individuality, or in some way obscured, we tend to move on to another, more legible image.

But some photographs and paintings perversely refuse to let us have things easy and, despite the illegibility of their subjects, intrigue us and hold our attention—art has this in common with sports and games: it is at its most rewarding when it makes us struggle and pushes us to dig deeper.

William Klein’s Dance in Brooklyn, New York is an example of such a photograph. It seems to pose the question of how little visual information do we need to find someone beautiful.

The children in this photograph were moving while the exposure was made. Klein’s camera (the shutter probably set at 1/15th or 1/30th of a second) has captured this movement as smears, blur and the loss of form and detail.

These, and the coarseness of the grain, have reduced the face of the girl in this photograph to a few broad lines and surfaces. It has the look of an African mask.

The reading of the face depends, more than with any other part of the human body, on the legibility of fine detail—think of how little difference there is between a genuine smile and that same smile held too long and grown stale; think of the kind of details that allow us to distinguish identical twins.

One would expect, given this degree of illegibility, that it would be impossible to get any sense of the girl’s beauty or personality. Yet the little that comes through still manages to give a strong sense of a slim, shapely italic face.

And despite the camera’s imperfect, chaotic rendition of her gesture it has nevertheless captured something that a faster shutter speed (which would freeze the action), or a movie camera, would not: the girl’s energy, grace, and audacity, her confidence, playfulness and sense of humour. There is a trance-like sense of abandonment in the angle of her head and in her open mouth; her eyes at first appear to be looking at the photographer, but a subversive reading has them rolled back into her head, as if in ecstasy.

The photograph offers us a beauty that is especially poignant because it ultimately eludes us: we never really “see” this child. All we get is a tantalising glimpse of a personality whose vigour was imperfectly and beautifully captured for a fraction of a second some 62 years ago.

The Child Portraits of Harold Cazneaux

Harold Cazneaux is one of Australia’s iconic photographers and is widely considered to be the creator of Australia’s pictorial photography genre. His works appeared in the early twentieth century with cityscape, industrial and landscape photography dominating his portfolio. However, portraiture is also a significant feature and with the addition of the family album images he is a good subject for this website.

Harold Cazneaux - Beryl, Rainbow and Jean Cazneaux Looking at a Book (1913)

Harold Cazneaux – Beryl, Rainbow and Jean Cazneaux Looking at a Book (1913)

Harold Pierce Cazneaux (1878–1953) was born in Wellington, New Zealand, to Pierce Mott Cazneaux and Emma Florence Cazneaux. Due to a financial depression that was occurring in New Zealand, the family moved to Adelaide, Australia in 1888. Unfortunately, they found the same problems in Australia. Both parents worked in the photography trade so it would seem inevitable that Cazneaux would become a photographer himself. In 1896 the artist’s father, who was director of Hammer and Company, gave him his first job and he spent his working days as an artist and image retoucher. While employed there the photographer met his future wife, Winifred Hodge, whom he married in 1905 and they had six children.

Harold Cazneaux - Rainy day (1910)

Harold Cazneaux – Rainy Day (1910)

Harold Cazneaux - The quest (1910)

Harold Cazneaux – The Quest (1910)

The photographer was first inspired to shoot pictures after visiting an exhibition entitled ‘Pictorial Photographs’, which featured the work of Jack Kauffmann among others. In order to pursue his career, he moved to Sydney in 1905 where the art society was larger and more established. While in Sydney he worked as an artist and image retoucher for Freeman and Company. The artist bought his first camera in the same year and started to take portrait photographs of friends and relations he was living with. At this time he was also photographing the harbour and city of Sydney, as well as documenting the lives of the people who inhabited the city. Cazneaux could do this as he travelled to work by ferry then walked to the office, thus allowing him to wander the streets, find the right subject and wait for the right moment to create a photo. As he created his art, he photographed local history and because of this the images are treasured today.

Harold Cazneaux - Argyle Cut (1912)

Harold Cazneaux – Argyle Cut (1912)

Harold Cazneaux - Albion street (1911)

Harold Cazneaux – Albion Street (1911)

As a way of escaping conventional studio work and giving himself the ability to experiment with photography, Cazneaux joined the Photographic Society of New South Wales in 1907. There he gained access to their darkroom and could increase the number of images he was creating.  He also spent time lecturing and demonstrating photography to other members. The photographer would become director of the Society in 1917. Two years later the Society invited him to mount a one man exhibition. When talking about the exhibition in the book The Story of the Camera in Australia, Jack Cato wrote,

This was Australia’s first one man show… one of the milestones in the history of photography in Australia… It lifted photography to a new plane. The press, the critics and the artists acclaimed it. There for the first time they wrote of “the art of the camera” … “the great artistic possibilities of photography”

For the artist this acceptance of photography as a distinct art genre was more important than personal recognition. The exhibition also gave him international recognition, which resulted in his first overseas show held two years later at the London Salon of Photography. There he received more accolades and recognition with one reviewer making a direct comparison to Alfred Steiglitz’s photographs of New York City. By 1914 the artist had four daughters, who were featured in many of his pictures. One such image, Waiting Up for Daddy, was entered into The Kodak National Photography Competition and ended up winning first prize. The image has also come to be one of the photographer’s most recognised.

Harold Cazneaux - Waiting Up for Daddy (1914)

Harold Cazneaux – Waiting Up for Daddy (1914)

Cazneaux did not like the direction or ideas that the Australian art scene had at this time, so in 1915 he set up the Sydney Camera Circle. The camera circle wanted to embrace the Australian light and landscape rather than the darker, staged and European-inspired imagery that dominated Australian photography at the time.

The year 1918 was a year of change in the photographer’s life. For nearly twenty years he had been trying to balance the demands of commercial photographic work with the freedoms of his own personal work, which caused him much distress. The situation got worse when his employers attempted to legally bind him to the studio, preventing him from doing work outside of the business. As a result, he had a nervous breakdown and left Freeman and Company. The breakdown lasted almost a year until a friend, Cecil Bostock, lent him his studio; he was in Europe documenting the war. The artist could now create the images he wanted and he advertised his artistic photography and natural portrait services, which continued throughout the rest of his life.

Harold Cazneaux - Balloons, Angela (1933)

Harold Cazneaux – Balloons, Angela (1933)

Harold Cazneaux - Peggy Paton (1917)

Harold Cazneaux – Peggy Paton (1917)

Harold Cazneaux - Rainbow Cazneaux (1911)

Harold Cazneaux – Rainbow Cazneaux (1911)

The first commission he received, since his independence, came in the same year. The contract required him to produce a portfolio of images documenting the Prince of Wales’ visit. Soon after he had to vacate the studio and reestablished it at his home. When Sydney Ure Smith was developing a new magazine, The Home, he remembered Cazneaux’s work and approached him to become the official photographer. He accepted and his pictures dominated the magazine from its inception in 1920 till its closure in 1942. The work was multifaceted, from making portraits of the interviewees to photographing the interior and exterior of homes. Additionally, he supplied art prints for the magazine, one such print was The Bamboo Blind that was the frontispiece for the first edition. With six children, the photographer could also provide the clothing advertisements for the magazine; an example is displayed below.

Harold Cazneaux - Clothing advertisement (1922)

Harold Cazneaux – Clothing advertisement (1922)

Harold Cazneaux - Bamboo Blind (1915)

Harold Cazneaux – Bamboo Blind (1915)

Cazneaux’s work for The Home magazine was well known and this brought in many other commissions. He travelled across Australia photographing properties for Australian Home Beautiful magazine, with many of these images reappearing in the book Domestic Architecture in Australia. The artist contributed images to six other books during his lifetime: Sydney Surfing (1929), The Bridge Book (1930), The Sydney Book (1931) and The Australian Native Bear Book (1930). The book with subjects most relevant to this site is The Frensham Book (1934), which details the lives of the girls residing at the Frensham Girls School. There is also In the Persian Garden, an album which details the characters from the matinee ‘In a Persian Garden’, held at the Theatre Royal, Sydney, July 1922, in aid of the Children’s Hospital.

Harold Cazneaux - The Crossing (1934)

Harold Cazneaux – The Crossing (1934)

Harold Cazneaux - The Holt (1934)

Harold Cazneaux – The Holt (1934)

in a persian garden

Harold Cazneaux – Untitled image (1922)

These activities kept Cazneaux active for the rest of his life and provided ample photographs for overseas group exhibitions. He supplied at least one image per year for the London Salon of Photography from 1911 to 1952 and was elected a member of the Salon in 1921. The photographer also supplied images to the Royal Photographic Society of Great Britain from 1908 to 1952 and was given an honorary fellowship in 1937—the first Australian to receive this honour. Due to his age, the artist reduced his work load back to strict portraiture in the 1940s and during the war years, the artist would focus on photographing soldiers and their families.

Cazneaux’s images of cityscapes and landscapes, including his iconic image The Spirit of Endurance can be seen at the State Gallery of New South Wales. If you have a spare day available, there are 1200 digitised images at the Trove website to look through, roughly 10% are his children’s portraits.

Process of Inspiration: Alain Laboile

Alain Laboile- The Process of Inspiration -(2016)

Alain Laboile- The Process of Inspiration (2016)

On a rural countryside in southern France, Alain Laboile shares the often under appreciated events of daily life. Born on May 1st 1968 in Bordeaux, France, Laboile never set out on a path for artistic photography. Laboile attended a rural French school between the ages of 6 and 10 that focused on the Célestin Freinet method of learning which focuses on creativity and exchange of ideas rather than learning by rote. At the age of 11, Laboile moved to the Ivory Coast after his father took a job in a dam building project. Spending his time in the bush playing with exotic animals, despite the dangers, he looks back on this time fondly and realizes there are no photos of his early years.

Alain Laboile - Untitled (1) (2010)

Alain Laboile – Untitled (1) (2010)

After meeting his wife Anne in 1990 and accompanying her to an art lecture, the inner artist in Laboile was awakened as he took up an interest in clay sculpting. What brought him into the world of photography was the fact that he needed additional material for his art portfolio. After picking up a compact camera, Laboile’s initial focus was entomology but his new passion was soon to emerge. Being the father of six, he was never short of subjects around his rural home. Capturing the everyday life of his children soon became his passion as he documents it in stunning monochrome.

Alain Laboile-Untitled-(2) (2013)

Alain Laboile- Untitled (2) (2013)

From frolicking in the mud to attending to their daily lessons, the camera captures the innocence and sense of wonder of a free childhood. The children romp and play free of clothing and without the forced shame of the outside world. From sadness to pure glee, the camera seems to be completely unnoticed by the children as they are free to express their true inner selves.

Alain Laboile-Untitled (3) (2016)

Alain Laboile- Untitled (3) (2016)

The work of Laboile has been exhibited throughout the world in such countries as Japan, India, Austria and the United States. Most recently, he published a collection of family photographs titled At The Edge of the World in October 2015.  Two other published works included En Attendant le Facteur (Waiting for the Postman) and Under the Monochrome Rainbow.  Laboile has created a Patreon funding page which enables artists to give access to new and unpublished work to users with as little as a $1 contribution per month. One last item to note is the lack of controversy that is usually associated with an artist of this nature. Sally Mann and Jock Sturges both faced intense criticism for their work in a similar field. It seems that living in a less repressed society such as France affords an artist to focus more on their work rather than defend it.

Alain Laboile - Untitled (5) (2013)

Alain Laboile – Untitled (4) (2013)

Alain Laboile - Untitled (6) (2014)

Alain Laboile – Untitled (5) (2014)

Alain Laboile- Untitled (7) (2016)

Alain Laboile- Untitled (6) (2013)

Alain Laboile- Untitled (8) (2016)

Alain Laboile -Untitled (7) (2016)

Alain Laboile - Untitled (9) (2014)

Alain Laboile – Untitled (8) (2014)

Alain Laboile-Untitled (9) (2014)

Alain Laboile-Untitled (9) (2014)

More information can be found on Alain Laboile’s official website.

Random Images: Philip Gendreau

This artist’s work has been highly commercialized, so there are plenty of sites selling his prints, but virtually no biographical information.  He operated out of New York City from the 1930s through 1950s including shots of the Empire State Building under construction.

Philip Gendreau - Girls Holding Dolls Seated on Bench (1940s)

Philip Gendreau – Girls Holding Dolls Seated on Bench (1940s)

From the Bettmann Archive

Random Images: Georg Friedrich Kersting

The really sad thing is that the information associated with this image was incorrect.  It seemed to indicate that it came from an artist from the Düsseldorf School of Painting.  In fact, a reader (see comment below) did some digging and found the pertinent details.

Georg Friedrich Kersting (1785–1847) was a German painter, best known for his Biedermeier-style interior paintings.  He was the son of a glazier and studied at the Copenhagen Academy for three years.  There he adapted the style of the Danish school. After serving in the Prussian Army, he moved to Poland to work as a drawing master. Returning to Meissen in 1818, he married and had four children. That year he became the head artist at a Biedermeier porcelain manufacturer until the end of his life.  He is also known for his close association with fellow painter Caspar David Friedrich.

Düsseldorf School of Painting - Girls Looking Out Window at Grapevines (19th Century)

Georg Friedrich Kersting – Kinder am Offnen Fenster (1815)

Random Images: Mary Ellen Mark

A couple year ago, Pip posted an image of Christina Ricci.  At the time, he was not aware that it was a photograph by Mary Ellen Mark (1940–2015) until a reader brought it to his attention.  The image below was also in his collection and I feel it deserves attention as well.  This is timely not only because Mark passed away last year, but at the time of this writing, it was the featured image of her official website.

Mary Ellen Mark - Girl jumping over a Wall,  Central Park, New York City, 1967

Mary Ellen Mark – Girl jumping over a Wall, Central Park, New York City, 1967

Mary Ellen Mark official website

Cesare Lapini

And now to my first Italian sculptor! Cesare Lapini was a Florentine artist born in 1848 and died in 1890, at the age of 42. His favorite subject was the female of all ages, and his little girls are especially charming. The first piece is called Impara l’arte e mettila da parte, an old Italian aphorism that translates to something like “Learn an art and put it aside”, except with a nifty rhyme. The point of it is you never know when some little thing you learned might come in handy later. So this little girl is learning to knit, something a lot of girls her age learned in the 1800s and early 1900s.

Cesare Lapini - Impara l'arte e mettila da parte (1893)

Cesare Lapini – Impara l’arte e mettila da parte (1893)

This next one, Volere e Potere, is a variation on the same theme. It seems Lapini liked rhyming titles. This is another old saying and it means basically, “Be willing and you’ll be able.” Or to put it the way most English speakers would recognize it, “Where there’s a will, there’s a way.” It appears she is either learning to sew or trying to tie a knot.

Cesare Lapini - Volere e Potere (1)

Cesare Lapini – Volere e Potere (1)

Cesare Lapini - Volere e Potere (2)

Cesare Lapini – Volere e Potere (2)

Cesare Lapini - Volere e Potere (3)

Cesare Lapini – Volere e Potere (3)

The last featured piece is a young adolescent couple. The boy tries to steal a kiss but the bashful girl is not having it, even as she does this with a sheepish smile. It’s called Il Primo Bacio which means “The First Kiss” and is my favorite of this collection.

Cesare Lapini - Il Primo Bacio (1904) (1)

Cesare Lapini – Il Primo Bacio (1904) (1)

Cesare Lapini - Il Primo Bacio (1904) (2)

Cesare Lapini – Il Primo Bacio (1904) (2)

Cesare Lapini - Il Primo Bacio (1904) (3)

Cesare Lapini – Il Primo Bacio (1904) (3)