Colin O’Brien’s Children On The Street
Spitalfields Life Contributing Photographer Colin O’Brien has been photographing children playing on the street since 1948 when, at eight years old, he snapped his pals in the markets of Hatton Garden and the bombsites of Clerkenwell.
For Colin in his childhood – as for many others – the bombed-out ruins of London proved the largest adventure playground in the world and the streets of the city and its markets offered as much drama, distraction and delight as any child could wish for.
Colin’s pictures show how children once inhabited the city and made it their own, exploring and discovering the world that they would inherit, learning to respect it dangers and savour its pleasures. Colin was especially fascinated by the age-old pastimes such as hopscotch and skipping games, and the ingenuity that children displayed in making their own amusement, turning any space into a playground.
Little did Colin know he was photographing the end of a certain street culture, as the age in which children could run freely passed away, and the television and then the computer encouraged them indoors. In the current climate of anxiety over perceived threats, today’s children have lost the freedom of previous generations and consequently are denied the opportunity to become streetwise at an early age.
Yet Colin’s superlative photographs exist to remind us that the city belongs to children, as much as to everyone else, and removing their right to the streets sacrifices an important part of the urban experience of childhood.
Colin’s photograph of his pals, taken in 1948 at the age of eight in Hatton Garden.
Photographs copyright © Colin O’Brien
Take a look at more pictures by Colin O’Brien