The “Kid City” body of work began as an outgrowth of the Big Picture Project in 2004 when I served as Photographer Laureate for the City of Tampa. It was also the year of Charlie, Jeanne, Francis and Ivan – the summer hurricanes of 2004. I had created a list of things to photograph for the project, but the active hurricane season prevented me from photographing everything on that list. Lowry Park and “Kid City” were two such unfulfilled subjects.
It was not until an advanced photography student came to class in October 2008 with an idea for a photo field trip that I finally made it to “Kid City”, four years later. My student had found out that “Kid City” was closing for good, and on her suggestion, I organized a group field trip. While my students photographed on site, I just looked and remembered being there when my sons were boys versus grown men – back when it was called “Safety Village”.
The experience left me inspired. When “Kid City” closed to the public on December 5, 2008, I spent the day shooting there until the venue became crowded with people coming for a last look at the Tampa and “Old Florida” icon. As my “model, – a universal child”, I took an antique manikin (a little boy and his dog) I had recently purchased, bringing also some small figures from my mother’s doll house, and a “Watch for Children” plastic figure I scavenged from someone’s trash. I had a pretty good idea of what I wanted to do at “Kid City” because I had thought about it a lot since the first visit with my students. That is the way I work.
The photographs in this exhibition are an extension of that day with my students and my subsequent return, but also a reserve of stored memories of being a child and a mother.
Only a few images in this exhibition were actually taken in “Kid City” while the others were made in the City of Tampa with the blonde-haired blue-eyed plaster boy. I think of these photographs as a visual diary of Tampa seen from a very different perspective than what I approached as the 2004 Photographer Laureate. The images build upon the concept of “Kid City” and thus literally portray a kind in the city – what do we see as we pass through this town…or any town? The images present the viewer with places and situations that you may recognize; they may not be archetypical landmarks, but they are part of Tampa. If you look beyond the pretty color and the little boy and his dog, you may also see some deeper issues. You may see yourself or your child or layers of reverberating echoes of childhood perceptions….or you may just see a colorful photograph.
What I have always loved about art and photography is the possibility that each of us see something different in what we view. The meanings are as complex and as unique as each individual who brings their personal experiences to the work they are viewing. My hope is always to stir something within the viewer that will allow them to think (interact with) about the image before them.
© Suzanne Camp Crosby