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The Tel Aviv Museum of Art


Charles Lutwidge Dodgson Pseudonym: Lewis Carroll
1832, Daresbury, England 1898, Guilford, England
Xie Kitchin on sofa, probably June 12, 1869
Albumen print from a collodion-on-glass negative 10.3x13.2 Anonymous gift

There is both steel and tenderness in Dodgson's apprehension of childhood grace. At the still small center of this masterful "amateur's" benediction to Western visual culture the girl child looks out to all interested observers of the future, holding us by her assurance and trust. Yes, trust, for in the corrupted currents of modern political thought a child's eyes, which may be both knowing and yet of grace, are no longer "de rigueur." We must avert our gaze lest we see beyond the veil of fundamental propriety.

Fortunately for art and our spirituality, both Dodgson and his child friends were wiser and innocent of such fraught fooleries (the twentieth century has had more than its fair share of this base matter) and the mutual collaboration between the seer and seen is held, the fragment of time made whole. Thus the spiritual sensuality of Eden's secret garden still lives and blossoms in its fecund profusion, for Dodgson is moral man who understood the demon angel of childhood and saw through his camera lens without prejudice and guile.

Despite this new dark age of political correctness which is descending on our cultures, Dodgson's spiritual love, his child friends personified by Xie Kitchin, still radiate their grace in grace. The moments of intimacy are transcended and become the archetypal, surely alchemy wrought through the chemistry of photography. I more than suspect that in Dodgson's photographic imagery we see his most precious "surrogate;" the photographs and albums by Dodgson may be read as his spiritual children. Simply, human love and compassion are to be found and cherished, and however modest in scale such works may be, they possess a monumentality beyond mere dimension.

Graham Ovenden