No Ball Games
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"Large, modern, publicly funded estates, symbolized by high rise concrete blocks, demonstrate the problems of an over-rigid, over-ambitious, over-paternal and arrogant system of government. […] It is ironic that the most extraordinary architectural vision, designed to liberate the masses from urban misery would become wedded to the most intensely bureaucratic housing delivery system of the modern era …"

from Estates on the Edge by Dr. Anne Power
The London School of Economics

The housing estate is a British phenomenon that lacks a comparison with any other type of subsidized housing in North America. It is a defined space usually strategically located some distance from the city centers, transforming the space into a geographical but also cultural cul-de-sac. In my attempt to produce a photographic sketchbook of this architecturally fascinating but also disturbing environment around Edinburgh/Scotland, I realized from an early stage that children would be key players in this body of work.

Indeed, children are the ones who create life on these streets and therefore they are also giving the estate a face one can study and interpret. I captured them in the midst of seemingly banal activities. It is my intention that through their physical reality the viewer might appreciate these unusual and sometimes peculiar portraits. Except for the oblique backdrop of grey housing blocks, I tried to exclude overly obvious signs of a life neglecting environment within the portrait.

However, the signifiers of a devastated architectural utopia (burnt-out houses, gang marks, barred stores etc.) are part of these children’s lives, who seem to have bypassed this at play amongst their own. It is my obligation to include this aspect of their childhood by adding imagery of such signifiers as opposed to the romanticizing or even glorifying portraits.

This juxtaposition of imagery is a parallel to the sociological contrast I hope to have captured in these children’s lives. With the title No Ball Games I am referring to an omnipresent plaque commonly found in the estates forbidding one of the last things that are left to do. Perhaps unconsciously, the ‘Game’ therefore turns into a form of resistance. The ambiguity of the photographs - and more importantly the ambiguity of their lives - is an honestly meant invitation into a world full of paradoxes and uncertainty.

Marco Bohr, 2002
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