Historic Santa Fe Foundation (HSFF) is pleased to host Once and Future Child: A Photographic History of Childhood in New Mexico an exhibition of photographs curated by Don Usner and in parntership with Searchlight New Mexico. The exhibition will open at HSFF’s El Zaguán, 545 Canyon Road, from October 11 from 5-7pm and continue through November 1, 2019.
Children have always been magnets for photographers and are heavily represented in photographic archives. Searchlight New Mexico’s Once and Future Child: A Photographic History of Childhood in New Mexicodraws on this deep photographic record—which includes photographs of children dating back to the late nineteenth century—to present a selection in an exhibit 32 prints.
Even a casual review of this record suggests that for many children living in the Land of Enchantment, childhood often has been less than enchanting. In fact, even though studio-style photographs show privileged children and there are many images crafted to promote tourism with romanticized images of children, a clear through-line of unambiguous poverty runs through the pictures right up to the present.
In the midst of difficult conditions, though, the resiliency and joy of children finds a way to shine through. Photographs show children being children, including their tendency towards play and laughter and their carefree immersion into community and landscape.
Drawing on photographs in the New Mexico Photographic Archives at the Museum of New Mexico, the Library of Congress, and other collections, this exhibit shows that children have survived through difficult times throughout the past 140 years. But looking back at that time period is also an impetus for looking forward, to consider the fate of children today. In this regard, this presentation is especially timely, as today’s children face unprecedented challenges on many fronts, perhaps none so ominous as the unfolding catastrophe of climate change—a threat to which youth are responding in extraordinary ways.
New Mexico currently ranks 50th for Child Well-Being among the fifty states—a statistic that all New Mexicans should find shameful and unacceptable. This exhibit will not gloss over this sad fact but will inspire reflection on the changing experience of childhood in New Mexico and on prospects for improving conditions for children’s future.