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The child’s play of photographer Molly Quill

Molly Quill

This month, when you walk through Gutman Library on the first floor of the Harvard Graduate School of Education, you will find a series of explorative images of children at play. But don’t expect to be greeted by all smiles or fun and games. These images trespass into the darker, more contemplative side of childhood to examine ideas of isolation, boredom and discomfort.

Decapitating Daisies, the first solo show of New York-based photographer Molly Quill, zooms in on childhood play, paying close attention to the pain, loneliness and misunderstanding that we often overlook in favor of rosier childhood memories. The inspiration for the exhibit came from the five summers Quill spent caring for the three young children of a close family friend. “I had an interesting dual insight into the lives of the children as their caregiver and their playmate. I had a critical eye as an adult, but I was also invited into the intimate world of their childhood,” Quill says.

Image from Molly Quill's Decapitating Daisies

Using a large format-view camera, Quill was able to capture some of the more raw moments of childhood play in stark high resolution. In one photograph, 10-year-old Lauren sits on a bathroom counter, and we see the young girl’s reflection in the mirror as she carries out the mundane routine of brushing her teeth. The girl’s countenance is quizzical and almost surprised, as if she is examining her reflection for the first time. “I was interested in exploring the physical manifestation of children investigating themselves,” says Quill.

Quill, who received her undergraduate degree from Massachusetts College of Art and Design in May, will continue experimenting with environmental portraiture in New York City. Once again, she will explore states of change and human development, but she will no longer use children as subjects. “I’ll be photographing medical students in the city. I’m interested in capturing the stage of transition between undergraduate and professional life,” Quill says. The Gutman exhibit runs through October 31.

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