“Our world can seem so technical and cold. All of us need.. stories to warm our souls.”
Elfriede Kleinhans on Grimms’ Fairy Tales
The title of Blincoe’s exhibition – Wander and Wonder – inspires curiosity as to whom these words apply. Is it that the ragamuffin-like children in his photographs wander through these marvellous landscapes and wonder about where they fit in the world, or that the images create a sense of wonder, inviting questions about their meaning, as the viewer wanders through the exhibition?
The operative mechanism in Blincoe’s exhibition title is ambiguity. But it continues to play a major role throughout his series of works, wherein he produces his images and intentionally leaves their content open to interpretation. Blincoe’s photographic training at Massey University in Wellington, New Zealand, followed by years of working in film, fashion and advertising, have honed his skills. Once visualized, he seeks the right location and the right children and props and lighting for each work, and then it is all set up and photographed. With a bit of editing (mainly colour grading), these richly enigmatic mis-en-scenes are then offered as prompts for our imagination, out of which we are to find our own narratives.
Nature has a strong presence in these works. It is we who could get lost in the panoramic vistas of dead grass and trees, pools of water or dark forests carpeted in thick green moss. And though they often loom large and dark behind the children, Blincoe’s ‘landscape-sets’ contain an air of forgotten mystery – like some folkloric or fairy tale setting – than any sense of menace or threat.
Curiously, the children’s gazes shift between a steadfastness – as if they are in control of their circumstances, or place, and it is we, the viewer, who is trespassing – and distance, as if in thoughts that are far away. Perhaps this has something to do with the fact that they are in the presence of ‘real’ nature. And herein lies a clue to the motivation behind these images; Blincoe feels that children play computer games or watch television more than they experience or observe nature. To this we can add reading books – like fairy tales – which he also loves. Both nature and books provide spaces for children to lost in their imagination, but with our increasing reliance on technology perhaps Blincoe’s work is a means of finding some solution.
Often these children are accompanied by an animal. And here ambiguity plays its role again: are these animals being captured or released, or are they like a ‘familiar’, a friendly spirit that guides the children on their journeys through the wilderness? Likewise with the tools held by some of the boys: a stick, a gun, a slingshot – are they used in defense or attack, or just plain fun?
Cast yourself back to your own childhood and wander through the memories of the times you spent adrift in nature, perhaps testing your ability to survive, perhaps just wondering about life. Such experiences also informed Blincoe’s series, the first image being of the boy standing ankle-deep in water with a raven under one arm and a slingshot in the hand of the other. This is derived from a personal memory, so alongside imagination perhaps the viewer’s memory is being invited to help unravel the narratives in his images.
What do you think?
 Blincoe, Jeremy, discussion with the author 24 April 2010