Climbing over coastal rocks © Justine Knight / Offset
Getting splashed by waves © Justine Knight / Offset
In the spring of 1853, Lewis Carroll wrote the poem Solitude and ended it with the following stanza: “I’d give all wealth that years have piled / The slow result of Life’s decay / To be once more a little child / For one bright summer-day.” He was only twenty-one at the time, but he keenly felt the loss of his early years, their wonderment and tenderness.
Summertime was made for children; adults are just bystanders. In honor of the season, we asked six Offset photographers—Aimee McNamee, Suzanne Gipson, Renee Bonuccelli, Jenna Reich, Ardelle Neubert, and Justine Knight— to tell us about what those precious three months meant to them when they were young and what they hope to capture in their own children, who are now coming of age.
Most recalled swimming, camping, and feeling hot sand and cool grass on bare feet. But the devil’s in the details. The most indelible memories are the specific ones, like McNamee’s long hours spent in friends’ backyards, making “soup” from dirt and picked flower petals. She joined in games of “Kick the Can,” felt crayfish nip between her toes while searching for treasure along the creek.
For Knight, growing up in Australia meant bike trips to the beach, collecting blackberries, and building houses way up in the trees. Gipson remembers the “permanent goggle marks” that lined her eyes, days spent, “running so hard during a good game of tag your lungs burn.” As parents, both Bonuccelli and Reich couldn’t help but point out the delightful messiness of summertime treats, what they call “gooey popsicle drippings” (Reich) and “popsicle juice running over bare tummies” (Bonuccelli).
When discussing their own kids, all five photographers alluded to the timelessness of summer when you’re young and no longer regulated by school hours and bedtime. There’s something intoxicating about the inertia of summer. McNamee calls it “the idle moment,” Gipson the “schedule free day.” These photographs are about, as McNamee says, “the way time stands still in summer.” In summer, adds Bonuccelli, children become “lost in time and space, the sun and moon revolving around them.”
“Often, I realize I am photographing my own memories,” says McNamee of observing her children. Indeed, the photographs in this collection offer us a rare portal back in time, to whenever it was when we were little. They also become a living document for the next generation. Writes Neubert, “My hope is that when my kids look back at the images of their childhood summer’s they see how much I loved spending time with them.” Knight agrees: “As my children get older, I realize that these photographs are one of many ways of communicating my love for them.” Adds Reich, “I hope it’ll inspire them to relive these precious times with their own children.”
Swinging high in a swing © Aimee McNamee / Offset
© With the ducks on the dock of an Austrian lake © Jenna Reich / Offset
Picking blackberries at the edge of a meadow © Jenna Reich / Offset
Splashing in a kiddie pool © Suzanne Gipson / Offset
Inside a wooden pirate fort © Jenna Reich / Offset
Sliding down a backyard water slide sprinkler © Renee Bonuccelli / Offset
A lemonade stand © Ardelle Neubert / Offset
A salamander caught in a jar © Suzanne Gipson / Offset
Collecting leaves © Aimee McNamee / Offset
Playing with sharks © Ardelle Neubert / Offset
Sleeping in a blanket fort © Suzanne Gipson / Offset
All photos featured in this post can be found on Offset, a new curated collection of high-end commercial and editorial photography and illustration from award-winning artists around the world. Offset is a sponsor of Feature Shoot.