Most of us think back to our childhoods with an idealized perspective . We remember days of innocence and bliss, days without worry, without responsibilities, backyard fun, favorite candies, and summers that seemed to stretch into infinity. But in reality, childhood is charged with complexity. There are periods of loneliness and insecurity, apprehension and terror. Virginia photographer Cynthia Henebry explores that side of childhood with her terrific portraits of children in a Waking State.
Cynthia might be considered somewhat of an expert to explore this terrain:
I was born in Richmond, Virginia in 1973, the first of only
2 children my parents would have together, though I later came to have 7 step
(then ex-step) siblings, and 2 half brothers, whom I still have. They are 6 and
8. I have 31 first cousins (44 if
you count their spouses, which I do), and approximately 2 million second
cousins. My husband and I adopted our 2 sons at birth, and we have relationships
with both of their birth families, whom we consider to be our extended family
as well. I don’t think I mentioned my in laws, who are of course my family,
All of which is to say, I have a very large family, and it
is a significant part of my identity.
Cynthia is currently pursuing her MFA in photography at Virginia Commonwealth University and has exhibited in the Virginia and Philadelphia areas.
Waking State: For whatever series of simple or complex reasons, I don’t remember most of my childhood, and it remains a grand and intriguing mystery to me. I take pictures of other people’s children as well as my own out of a deep curiosity to understand what might have happened to me, and also what happens to the children in my life now. What kinds of tragedies and hurts, but also what kindnesses and inner resiliencies that compensate for the way the world infringes upon us all.
I have never subscribed to the view that children have it easier than we do- that their lives are less complicated, or their emotions any simpler. On the contrary, there is so much about the world that is out of their control, and which they are struggling to understand. At the same time, their availability to the present moment opens them up to beautiful and profound experiences every single day.
Sophia and the conch shell
Great grandmother’s tea party
Into the woods
The strawberry farmer’s nephew
Chain link fence
Washing the river off
Anna and Eloise