Who we are
The Children’s Photography Archive’s mission is to celebrate and preserve children’s photography and to push the boundaries of our understanding of children’s visual cultures.
We do this through our digital archive, bespoke projects and workshops in communities, museums and schools, through crowdsourcing and public engagement activities, and through our own research, research collaborations, and consultancy.
The Children’s Photography Archive (CPA) is the first of its kind digital archive for children’s photography. At a time when images have assumed a central role in human communication, our aim is to recognise children’s photographs as artistic production, cultural artefacts, and historical records.
The Children’s Photography Archive C.I.C. was co-founded by Melissa Nolas and Christos Varvantakis in 2019 and incorporated as a community interest company (not for profit) in 2021 (registered in England and Wales (No. 13503800). The Children’s Photography Archive C.I.C. was made possible through two grants from the European Research Council (ERC-StG-335514-Nolas; 2014-2019) (ERC-PoC-874454-Nolas/Varvantakis; 2020-2021).
Melissa and Christos co-founded and direct the Children’s Photography Archive C.I.C. with the support of an international advisory group.
Click here to meet the team.
What we do
The CPA provides and maintains a digital archival infrastructure to collect and curate photography by children and carries out consultancy, research and educational actions on childhood publics, children’s visual cultures, and children’s photography. The activities of the Children’s Photography Archive will benefit children themselves,
- by recognising and promoting the idea of childhood publics and children and youth as knowledgeable subjects, witnesses, documentors, and active participants of everyday lives, history and social change;
- by providing an infrastructure to collect, catalogue and curate children and young people’s photographic and other visual recordings of everyday life, important moments at home, in school, and in public, and moments of historical import;
- by providing educational opportunities (workshops, action research, etc) for teachers and other professionals who work with children, to raise awareness of the ‘child’s gaze’, children’s photographic practices and their interpretation and identification as cultural heritage;
- by supporting professionals who work with children to incorporate ideas of the child as knowledgeable subject, witness, documentor, participant into their existing practices (e.g. citizenship education, PHSE, or other) and/or supporting them to experiment with new practices that support childhood publics;
- by creating public spaces and texts (e.g. exhibitions or publications) that disseminate the work of the Children’s Photography Archive and its partners to the wider public.
Work with us
The Children’s Photography Archive C.I.C. welcomes and will seek out collaborations with research and community projects working with children and photography. These will be known as ‘third party collaborations’; for further information click here. We are registered in the European Commission Register (PIC. 886775844). You can download our Partner Identification Form (PIF) here.
The Children’s Photography Archive C.I.C. has been made possible through two grants from the European Research Council (ERC-StG-335514-Nolas; 2014-2019) (ERC-PoC-874454-Nolas/Varvantakis; 2020-2021). The CPA’s first collection came from the children in Athens, Hyderabad, and London who participated in the ERC Connectors Study (2014-2019) where, as part of the study methodology they were given digital cameras to take photographs of things that mattered to them. The archival infrastructure, including this digital repository, was developed through the ERC Child Photo Archive project (2020-2021), after which the CPA slowly started to become open to receiving photographs directly from children and from other research, educational and cultural projects using photography with children.
Values and Policy
“the ability to manipulate one’s gaze in the face of structures of domination opens up the possibility of agency” (bell hooks)
Our archival, editorial and curatorial policy has been informed by research, theory and practice on children’s visual and photographic practices (see our research programme on childhood publics), lessons from feminist and post-colonial theory on the ‘gaze’, and contemporary visual anthropology and sociology on the use and location of images in society. The need for a Children’s Photography Archive has also become increasingly timely and relevant given the availability, uptake and use of digital tools, including cameras, by children. Our policies are also informed by existing photographic editorial policies and codes of ethics and is sensitive to the current changing landscape and social movements relating to childhood, photography, and archiving.
At the heart of our editorial policy is the child herself and her world, a value informed by the United National Convention for the Rights of the Child (1989) and in particular, the Children’s Photography Archive is designed around children’s right to take part in a wide range of cultural and artistic activities (Article 31: leisure, play and culture), and, we would add, to shape these.
The Children’s Photography Archive aims to balance children’s rights to participation, provision and protection in leisure, play and culture as that relates to the practice of photography, by providing an infrastructure for children to safely shape the artistic, cultural, and education landscapes which they inhabit through the visual image and its storytelling.
In particular, the Children’s Photography Archive our editorial values promote:
- The child’s gaze The concept of the gaze is central to our understanding of ourselves, of otherness and of difference and, it is argued, shapes the way we interact with the world around us. To date children have more often than not (like women, people of colour, and societies of the Global South) been the focus of a white male gaze that promotes a particular figure of the child: as innocent, as victim, as subjects of wonder and curiosity. The Children’s Photography Archive offers children the infrastructure to record their everyday and project-based experiments of producing visual cultures, to return the gaze and to represent themselves and their lives. It gives credence to their experiences as these are visually captured and enables them to archive their current practices of self-expression and cultural creation for future generations to explore and appreciate.
- Contextualised image-making Lessons from contemporary visual anthropology and sociology tell us that images do not speak for themselves. Images are made in a context and with a purpose. We encourage children submitting their images directly to us, or those projects working with children photographically, to tell us the story of their image: when was it taken, what’s depicted and why, why is it important, how should future audiences understand the image. In doing so, we are also privileging the child as the first interpreter of their image(s) and providing children with the space to contextualise their photographs in their everyday lives and lived experiences.
- Respectful photography Photography has a fraught history with dignity and consent, with photographs recording and/or making history and denigrating individuals, communities and nature, sometimes in the same image. The Children’s Photography Archive will not tolerate any photographs that denigrate any individual or communities or animals or nature (see our ‘standards of practice’). In particular, we encourage individual children or those projects working with children photographically, to take photographic consent seriously. We ask all our child photographers to practise consent in their own photographic practice. This means that when you are taking a photograph of someone you ask for their permission first and you inform them that you would like to deposit their photograph in the Children’s Photography Archive. If they do not agree to their photograph being taken, or being deposited into the archive, then you have to accept ‘no’ as their answer.
- Intersectionality The child’s gaze is under-represented in visual culture and children share relative powerlessness in society in relation to adults. At the same time, childhoods are shaped by experiences of gender, race, ethnicity, religion, caste and class, as well as ability, meaning that all childhoods are not equal. Those children who experience more than one difference in relation to the dominant cultures they grow up in are especially under-represented in the public sphere and can experience multiple discrimination. The Children’s Photography Archive welcomes submissions from all children, but is especially mindful of these inequalities and exclusions, and endeavours to promote the gaze of children whose experiences do not conform to normative ideals of childhood as those are relevant in different social and cultural contexts.
You can read and download our entire, fully referenced and footnoted values and policy guidelines here, including how we deal with data management and data protection.
Licensing and using the archive
The photographs in this archive are licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. If you would like to use the deposited photographs in academic (research and teaching) and other not-for-profit work you are welcome to. We ask only that you acknowledge the archive, and the collection that you are drawing from, and provide a link to the collection page in the archive.
You can acknowledge the archive in any writing, presentations or other dissemination or teaching activity with the following sentence: ‘The photographs analysed/presented [delete/replace as appropriate] were sourced from the Children’s Photography Archive and the [name of collection] collection’.
It would be great if you could let us know where/when you have used the Children’s Photography Archive, and how it was received, as it helps us develop and hone the archive, and build a case for why it’s necessary. We would also welcome reflective blog posts about using the archive.