In 2011 I photographed Ricky Aldrich, an older man with a childlike spirit. The following year I photographed Sadie B. at ten, a child I have known since she was an infant, and observed to have an ‘old spirit’.
Sadie is a home-schooled student, a baker, an artist, and a gymnast. She is the youngest of four children and the only girl. I met Sadie while babysitting at the Woodstock Jewish Congregation. In the first photograph that I took of her, she is sitting on top of a stack of wooden chairs in the childcare room reading a book to herself. I was impressed that a two-year-old would have the daring and skill to climb to the top of a stack of chairs while maintaining the forethought to bring a book to look at. Unlike other children I watched, Sadie was very quiet and interested in entertaining herself, qualities that I had when I was a child.
With ten years behind her, Sadie continues to be energetic and sprightly, reflective and thoughtful. As playful and spontaneous as Sadie is, she often surprises me with the depth of her wisdom. One day we were riding in the backseat of her mom’s car and she said, “You know, sometimes I like to listen more than I like to talk.”
Sadie lives in a big house right on the Hudson River. When you look out from the living room, you can easily imagine that you are on a boat. Perhaps the home-schooling experience has encouraged comfort with being alone and a tendency towards introspection. The discipline required for practicing gymnastics carries over into Sadie’s every day movements, as in the photograph of her seemingly choreographed movements opening the sliding glass door. Sadie moves with deliberate precision; she’s very comfortable in her body.
Here we see Sadie at home doing schoolwork, making blanket forts, baking, cooking, and practicing piano, activities we can all relate to when we reflect back on what it was like to be ten.
I decided to do an entire project focusing on Sadie because ten is an age where one can be both an innocent child and at the threshold of adulthood; still in touch with the delight of play, yet beginning to take on the stresses of homework and other responsibilities. This can be a bittersweet time, as childhood treasures and pastimes are replaced by more adult cares and concerns. Soon, Sadie will be enrolled into a large school, and she stands at the brink of her teenage years. Photographs taken in a year or two’s time may show a very different girl.
These photographs act as a doorway into my own memories. In chronicling Sadie’s various activities, I was reminded of my own inventions and adventures at that special time – she studies gymnastics, I studied ballet, she paints and, at that age, I began taking photographs. Sadie and this project gave me a chance to be ten again.