Depicting the world of children has long been one of the key themes of contemporary art. Using the language of the next generation’s visual representation has always been an especially compelling means for conveying the essence of current existential and social processes: a social history in the nursery.
The works in Ildi Hermann’s Daughters series tell us about the life of children, while also revealing the context of this life. Her portraits are primarily of her daughter, Rozi, and of other children. At the same time, these pictures are also the reflections of a world that seems simple but is actually absurd, both real and surreal. A world where little girls prepare for their roles as grown-up women, showing their original beauty, or hiding behind their masks. They live their lives looking for models, playing the roles of the people they will became one day – as they strive to resemble one another, but also to differentiate themselves. Their irreality does not stem from the way they present themselves, but rather emerges from the totality of the elements of reality portrayed in the images.
At the same time, this manner of presentation, fundamentally personal yet reserved at the same time, is a distinguishing feature of Ildi Hermann’s strong and sharp visual commentary: this is how the world is in and around us, and this is how our children live with us and among us. They are striving to learn about the world: by trying to find their place in a set-up of festivities, playing hide-and-seek in fancy dresses, forgetting all about their roles. Lost in their heart-stirring solitude, they share with us the autotelic beauty of their uniqueness.
The pictures of this series can also be seen as photographs from an unusual family album, which includes not only records of the events themselves, and not only events of family life, life with friends and lives of various generations, but also whatever happens between two such events. The locations and interiors are not only backgrounds but part and parcel of the portrayal of this world. In this album, there is no difference between significant and insignificant. Both are part of life, of the process itself. Looking back from the future, who could tell at this moment what will be seen as decisive: the portrait of the girl dressed as a princess on the bed or the one in a bathing suit, with the white rabbit in the red armchair? But in fact, it is not our job to decide what is or will be significant and what not. It is rather to see ourselves in these pictures, to recognize our children’s questions along with our own, and how these can be answered.
Gabriella Csizek, curator of the Hungarian House of Photography