Framing Childhood: Representations of Children in Gunnar Lundh’s Photo Agency Archive

  • Helena Hörnfeldt Department of Ethnology, History of Religion and Gender Studies
Keywords: Children, Childhoods, Photographic genres, Pictorial vocabulary, Representation, Sweden, Welfare state

Abstract

Based on Gunnar Lundh’s photographs from the period 1920-1960, this article aims to discuss how a visualisation of children and childhood in cultural history collections can be addressed. This period is known as the time when the Swedish welfare state and society took shape, a period when the conditions for children in society changed in a number of ways. Lundh’s photographs are therefore viewed as cultural expressions of an era of cultural, societal and political change in which photographs of children came to play a particularly important role. Some of Lundh’s pictures have been reproduced in works about the constructive period of the Swedish welfare state and have thereby had an important role in narrating the story of the welfare society. In this way, Lundh’s photographs of children must be understood in the specific context of visual representations of children and childhood from this time period. In the many pictures of children in Lundh’s collection, the children play, are dressed up in fine clothes and national costumes, visit the library, pick flowers, play along the shore, etc. The children are depicted both active and passive, innocent, childish and pure. In that sense, the photographs follow a genre-specific way to portray children which was typical at the time and still is. In the article, I argue that an understanding and a specific way of seeing and portraying children and childhood became institutionalised during this period. However, in this institutionalisation process of images of childhood, Lundh’s pictures of children seem to reproduce and enhance this “pictorial vocabulary” in many ways that appear natural to childhood.

References

Unprinted sources

Gunnar Lundh’s photograph archive: contact sheets

Printed sources

1000 svenska barn (1930): Svenska Dagbladet. Stockholm: Nordisk rotogravyr. Svenska barn i bild (1942): Redaktionskommittén för Svenska barn i bild, Stockholm.

Sveriges barn Sveriges framtid (1942): (red.) Bibi Wennberg. Stockholm: IGO-förlag

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Published
2020-05-26
Section
Archive and Methods