What were your most prized possessions when you were 3? 4? 5? 6? We all have fond memories of our favoured toys of childhood. For me it was Strawberry Shortcake, any and all art supplies, and books. I didn’t hoard Barbies and there was never lots of toys.
Not only because it wasn’t in the budget, but because my mom didn’t believe in kids having all that stuff. We didn’t even own or watch any TV until we were about 6 when my grandfather just showed up on our doorstep with one and insisted. Or so the story goes. Something which, if I’m honest, had a lasting effect on me, but not in the way you’d think. I was jealous of the other kids who had the toys I wanted. I yearned to have the new this or that. But really, I just yearned to be more like them. More like anyone other than myself or where I was.
I suppose the lasting effect it had on me was all in how it was presented and the underlying issues at play. There were some years that birthdays were forgotten or celebrated as a haphazard after-thought and tears on a few Christmases because there just wasn’t any magic. Not because there were so few toys. There were regular ‘ole days met with moods mirroring frail yet ferocious beauty, pouring out jet-lagged shards of joy. It was most often a constant, scrambled chaos to somehow make it through each day.
Scrolling through Italian photographer Gabriele Galimberti’s project Toy Stories, I was consumed with these thoughts. Photos of children with their favourite toys isn’t as cute as one might think. All of the intricacies of growing up in a government assisted, misplaced, marginalized, misrepresented, heavily stereotyped social demographic came flooding through as I my eyes darted and poured over each picture.
I began to think about how now (eventually), I’ve come out on the “other side.” I recognize that now and as a parent now myself, I go all out. I do up the birthday parties with all of the gusto I’ve got. I plan the handmade and few choice purchased Christmas presents months in advance. It is the intention and effort and thought with which I pour into these things (they’re just THINGS), that I show my some of my love. Yet, my over-zealous (are they?) ways as a gift-giver are but a blip on the radar of my endless devotion and displayed respect and affection for my children. Am I spoiling them? Am I creating a lifestyle for them of privilege and circumstance? In some ways I hope YES. In fact I scream it from the inside, YES.
But then, I thought to myself, staring at these children and their toys, nothing from my own childhood compares to that of a child living in poverty somewhere in a third world country. In fact, in my own country, on many a reservation. Also nothing around here with my own kids resembles that of a Toddlers & Tiaras dressing room or a shocking collection of toy weaponry and guns. I suppose we’re all doing the best we can do (arguably) and part of that is having the courage to challenge the status quo. To raise discussion in society when we see our society as gluttonous, vapid thrill seekers of the materialistic variety. To have the courage to dissuade one another from raising a nation of self-entitled wimps. I can talk about that stuff without flying off the handle. In fact there are lots of things I can talk about that make most feel awkward, so there’s that. The jury’s still out on whether or not that’s a good thing.
What I do know is that I’m thankful for artists like Gabriele Galimberti. I am moved by his exploratory project of our universe and what it’s like to be a kid today amidst the diversities of it all–with his camera. For shining an impossible to ignore light on the children of our world. His work has definitely given me food for thought in how I continue to raise my children and the values I pass onto them and what I teach them to treasure. Because that is what’s going on at this stage of the game. The early years are the most formative after all and I can only hope I do right in leading by example the ways in which will armor their brains and souls UP, for when they have to face all of craziness of this world on their own. Let’s just say these images reigned me in quite a bit.
I chose 7 from Galimberti’s larger collection to share here… what do they say to you?
Click here to see the rest of Gabriele Galimberti‘s Toy Stories on Feature Shoot
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Via her humble beginnings, mastering in general mayhem: le petit rêve