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The Mysterious, Innocent Complexity of the Playground

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The Sack Race

The_Light

The Light

Childhood, like old age, is a riddle we spend our entire lives trying to solve. Our boyhood and girlhood selves so often lurk like shadows long after we’ve grown up; they follow us, but the moment we try too hard to touch them, to pin them down, they slip away. It’s that secret, ambiguous quality of being little that photographers Francisco Diaz and Deb Young, who together form The International Collaboration Project, are reaching for with The Playground Series.

The playground is the one place on earth where the dynamic flips and the children are in charge; adults are, at the very most, spectators. The youngsters determine what’s up and what’s down, who’s the hero and who’s the villain, who gets to play and who’s relegated to the back corner. It’s what Diaz and Young call the “mysterious, innocent complexity of playground society.”

The origin tale of The International Collaboration Project is a sort of fairytale unto itself; they are across the globe from one another, separated by some 8,000 miles with Young in New Zealand and Diaz in the United States. Each image they produce is made by the two of them; the work hand-in-hand digitally though not literally. They have even engineered a special method that allows them to see remotely what the other is looking at through his or her lens.

Each image in The Playground Series is composed of multiple frames fused to tell a single story. They’re photomontages, and in that way, they’re works of fiction. Still, every component was shot in a playground somewhere in one of the two nations, so perhaps it’s the truth told out of order.

Because this imaginary playground, made of so many real playgrounds, exists in this precarious space outside of time, Diaz and Young invite us to step back into the murky waters of our own schooldays. It’s true when they say their pictures are informed in part by the “joy and lightheartedness” of childhood, but they also reflect back at us something more portentous—maybe even sinister— about what it means to inhabit the playground.

Beyond the scraped knees and the hurt feelings, there’s real suspense here. And that intrigue is what makes us long to return, to stay a little longer knowing what we know now.

The International Collaboration Project is represented by Susan Spiritus Gallery.

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Follow the Leader

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King of the Hill

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Playing with Fire

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The New Girl

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The Sack Race 3

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The Chase

The_Wait

The Wait

All images © Francisco Diaz + Deb Young / The International Collaboration Project

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