Andrea Frank
Ports and Ships

BELOVED CHILD, 2001 - 2003

The Beloved Child series is based on archive images dating from the 1930’s to 1970’s which were altered in the re-shooting and printing process. The series focuses on children’s group activities such as sports, game playing, and life in vacation camps, emphasizing the role of society as a forming and educating force. The emotionally charged images suggest a fine line between education and manipulative ideological molding.

All images C-prints, edition of 6.

by Richard A. Etlin

(excerpt from Andrea Frank SEARCH--works 1998 - 2005, Aracne Editrice, 2010, Italy)

Andrea Frank’s Beloved Child offers a haunting and beguiling series of photographs that present children in group activities which took place in the years 1930-1970. These are photographs of photographs that have been enlarged and blurred, and then colored so slightly with a subtle, all-pervasive hue that is hardly noticeable, remaining a discrete tonality in what a casual observer might mistake as black-and-white images. Perhaps the most powerful colored effect arises from the magenta line that sometimes hovers outside the edge of the children’s bodies, as if showing an aura of their life force.

Many of the photos portray children in regimented lines, engaging in exercise programs that recall both the craze for physical fitness and the exigencies of the war-time period and its immediate aftermath that sadly saw the need to prepare each nation’s youngsters to become tomorrow’s soldiers. Yet the range of circumstances in which these children can be found extends from the frightened and emaciated children of White Russians fleeing the Russian Communists and persecuted by their Chinese counterparts, to American Boy Scouts praying in one of New York City’s gloriously Gothic-revival churches; from Italian youth living abroad in the so-called Fascist Empire of North Africa, engaging in a gymnastic display in Rome before assembled dignitaries and Black Shirts, to napping Roman children in the first Montessori school re-opened in that city after the War, which had banished both Maria Montessori and her pedagogy as too dangerous for the Fascist mind. The viewer of this exhibition would not know the origins or identities of these children, because the artist not only has refrained from providing such information but also has chosen to eliminate from her cropped images any such signs of specificity in favor of a more universalized statement about children at rest or in group activities.

Whatever the pose, the children in all of the photographs are beloved to the artist, who presents an entire gamut of messages to the viewer, that progresses from extreme innocence – whether of emaciated suffering (#12), total abandon to sleep (#6), or the awkwardness of extreme youth engaged in difficult calisthenics (#16) – to focused absorption – whether of watching a performance (#14) concentration (#3), or prayer (#2) – to the potentially sinister regimentation of adolescents (#5) and young adults (#17), culminating in a return to insouciant innocence rendered malevolent through the distortions of blurring that give the sunbathing youths of #7 the aspect of so many little mustachioed Hitlers. The theme of innocence perverted, or capable of being perverted into evil, by adult authority, is an undercurrent of the entire ensemble, as well as a constant in Frank’s oeuvre. The Beloved Child series follows upon Frank’s Case Study, a haunting photographic portrayal of an Italian Fascist youth camp along the Adriatic Sea at Rimini, where the ruined forms of a self-consciously heroic Rationalist building provide the setting for piles of moldering summer shoes, detritus of a war-torn age and of a perverted dream of imperial and racial superiority visited upon an entire society and inculcated through indoctrination into Italian youth, the innocents whose abandoned shoes are like so many witnesses to the corruption of their minds and hearts.

Since Beloved Child takes the viewer through nearly all stages of youth, progressing into young adulthood, it serves as a retroactive prelude to Frank’s earlier photographic studies where she had manipulated an archival photograph of a crowd of adult German civilians giving the Nazi salute, such that in paired images, one view shows only a sea of regimented arms reaching, nay, thrusting forward in a delirium of acclamation, with all other distinguishing features having been painted out, while its pendant portrays merely a seemingly innocuous crowd of men and women, whose raised arms have been erased by paint, which also restores the partially obscured faces, hidden by the sea of raised hands in the original. The pairing of the everyday innocence of the everyman and of the easy transformation of the crowd into a frenzy of evil intent is startling, disturbing. Frank has more recently returned to that theme, making a diptych, exhibited as paired images joined at the corner of a room. This time Frank has used a photograph not of civilians but rather of the Wehrmacht during the Hitler era.



Andrea Frank