Childhood in Rural America: Pine Flat at the Sackler

Photo courtesy Sackler Museum

Photo courtesy Sackler Museum

Michael Hogan

In a rural village in the foothills of California’s Sierra Nevada Mountains Sharon Lockhart, a celebrated photographer and filmmaker lived for three years documenting the lives of the children who live there. The Arthur M. Sackler Museum at Harvard University is the last stop on the international tour of her new exhibition Sharon Lockhart: Pine Flat.

A small community that offers little more than its idyllic landscape, many of the adults who live there have to work in the bigger cities which forces them to leave their children unattended for long periods of time. Lockhart spent those three years observing these children as the occupied themselves with games, curiosity, and relaxation. The exhibition consists of a film of the children that Lockhart shot while there as well as nineteen portraits of the children in the film. The film is broken into two parts, each part consisting of one hour of footage. The first part features the children by themselves, the second part featuring the children interacting in groups. Each part of the film is then broken down into six ten minute segments, two of which are shown on continuous loop as part of the exhibition. One segment from each part is shown each day on a six day cycle. The full film is being screened at the Harvard Film Archive throughout the length of the exhibition.

Along with the film being shown there are also nineteen photographs of many of the children in the film. Shot in a makeshift studio fashioned out of a barn. The children were told to come in and pose for photographs whenever they felt the desire, this gives the portraits a dramatic sort of feel. Each child poses in their own way, revealing bits of their own individual personalities. The rural nature of the world in which these children make their home comes out in some of the portraits as well, in the form of cowboy hats, rifles, and motocross gear. There is dirt on the faces of some of the children as they had obviously stopped by the barn after playing outside. The photographs manage to evoke the innocence of youth as a whole while at the same time evoking the solitude of these particular youths.

Sharon Lockhart: Pine Flat is being exhibited at the Arthur M. Sackler Museum until November 19th. The Sackler Museum is located at 485 Broadway, Cambridge. So, if you should find yourself in Harvard Square with a little time to kill. Or, you’re just darn sick of the cold. Take the trip to the Sackler, see the exhibition, and submerge yourself in the warmth of the rural California landscape and the lives of the children who live there.