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How many times have you sat down for a coffee with a friend and had them whip out their phone to show you their photo reel, filled with snaps of an adorable baby or child? Whether they are children, grandchildren or distant relations, there is a certain pleasure to be found in images of childhood.
This photograph is from a suite of 40 taken by celebrated New Zealand photographer Anne Noble, each one depicting the mouth of her daughter, Ruby. Speaking, chewing, stained with blue, or filled with a rainbow of lollies, the images in Ruby’s Room are not your usual family album pictures; they are playful, messy, and a little bit odd. They focus on the everyday imperfect moments of childhood and reveal the wonder that exists within them, despite the mess (or perhaps even because of it).
With this series, Noble challenges the romantic idea that childhood is perfect. Ruby’s Room No. 10, part of the Dunedin Public Art Gallery Collection, achieves this through the clear light and vivid colours that anchor the viewer firmly in the present. Rather than slipping into our own childhood nostalgia, our attention is held by the bright colours and the glowing luminosity of every surface: Ruby’s lips glisten with saliva, her mouth is stoppered by something smooth and almost fluorescent green (is it a slice of apple?) and her flushed pale skin appears velvety soft.
- Lucinda Bennett is a curatorial intern at the Dunedin Public Art Gallery.
At the gallery
• Ruby’s Room No. 10 is part of the exhibition Soften, at the Dunedin Public Art Gallery until July 16.