A Case for Unadulterated Truth | Guest Article by Jennifer Tonetti-Spellman

It's hard for me to believe that we have been in this space for three months now. On one hand, how has it already been three months? I mean, is 2014 really almost over? But, then again, it feels like we've been here much longer than three months. Maybe this is because documenting our boys, sharing our boys, is something we've always done. 

On the Paperclipping Roundtable, I spoke to the fact that Amy & I purposefully sought out contributors who were already capturing real moments for their family in a very authentic way for this project. This project is more than a "boy project". This project is about authenticity. This project is about cherishing childhood as it truly is. 

I knew I wanted to celebrate our first quarter with something special and because this is more than a "boy project" I wanted to focus on authenticity. So, I asked a favor of a mentor to write on a topic that permeates her professional and personal work.

We are so very fortunate to have Jennifer Tonetti-Spellman contribute an essay on authenticity to Where The Boys Are. Her images and words continually inspire me and we are lucky to have her as a supporter and friend of this project. 

I hope you enjoy her essay as much as I did. Can you guess where I let out a big "Hell, YES!" when I read it for the first time myself?


When I first started filming children 5 years ago, I felt a bit of a void in child photography. 

There were lots of pictures of very controlled, very 'static' images of children with perfect hair and perfect outfits. I found very few images of motion, mess and free unadulterated truth. 

Children, to me, aren't meant to be perfect little models. They are best filmed as they are, however that may be at the moment. Happy, sad, contemplative, puzzled, curious. Real emotions. Real life. 

As adults we cannot get away with much: our hair needs to be neat, our clothes somewhat matching and our mouths silenced from truth so as to not offend. 

But children? They can {and do} break all these rules we fall victim to as we age. 

As a documenter of children, I often sit back and analyze my work. 

What message am I sending? What message do I HOPE to send to everyone viewing my images? What do I want people to take away after looking at my images? 

The answer is always the same : 

I want to produce work that speaks to what it actually is to be a child. 

I want to show the truth. 

My series, Children in B+W, celebrates everything I remember childhood to be. 

Nostalgic, timeless, in your face moments. Dirty barefoot feet, playgrounds, schoolyard conversations of children, ice cream eating, art filled messes, mismatched clothes and anything and everything that screams the joy and at times, frustration of being a child. 

Authentic childhood memories. 

It's the way I am going to want to remember my daughter's earlier years. 

Not with her hands folded, smiling at the camera in a dress that made her itch...but in a back-yard with her cousins on a swing set. Her hair wet from the pool, face filled with crumbs from snack food, feet dark from the earth, and screaming in joy as her stomach takes a dip as she swings back and forth. 

Regardless of color or creed or whatever generation you were born in, anyone can relate and 'feel' something when they look at an image like that, right? 

Why? 

Because we were all there. We all have had those moments in our life when we were freer than we'd ever be, but were too young to know or appreciate it. 

These images, no matter when taken, will always stand the test of time. 

And years from now, when the images are looked at by the now grown child or future generations, their meaning will be as relevant, as real, and as authentic as the day the image was created. 

And as an artist, that means everything to me. 

 

 

 

 

Jennifer Tonetti-Spellman is an in-home documentary photographer who specializes in documenting the moments in between in the NYC / Westchester County area.

No posing. No props. Just the real. Because real is awesome.