Andrea Ferber

Dressed like a bear

Children are able to open up to the world, regardless of worldly concerns and social awareness, and perceive in a multitude of variations.

Is it the mindlessness of childhood that opens up the world?
Today nothing happens in a gas station. I‘m eager to leave, to get
where I‘m going, and the station, like some huge paper cutout, or
a Hollywood set, is simply a facade. But at thirteen, sitting with my
back against the wall, it was a marvellous place to be. The delicious
smell of gasoline, the cars coming and going, the fresh air hose, the
halfheard voice buzzing in the background - these things hung musically
in the air, filling me with a sense of well being. In ten minutes
my psyche would be topped up like the tanks of the automobiles.
Frank Conroy

In contrast to adults, children‘s perception is still in its nascent stage. There are no deep experiences to rely on, or to help interpret the world. This develops only over time through accumulated experiences and it influences our perception individually. Children are able to open up to the world, regardless of worldly concerns and social awareness, and perceive in a multitude of variations. The experience and its perception in the early years of development is very formative for children. I wanted to explore how a city like London has an impact on children. How do they see the city? What kind of feelings do they associate with different places?

Piaget, a Swiss psychologist, has greatly influenced the academic discourse about a child’s concept of space. His theory divides a child‘s perception into three levels:

Pre-operational stage (roughly between the age of five and nine) -
In this phase, the perception relates particularly to proximity, separation, spatial sequence and the continuity of surroundings. The child recognizes a familiar path in the location, but can not put it together with others.

Concrete operational stage (around the age of nine to thirteen) -
The child is now able to understand familiar patterns of behaviour and capture sequences of objects and settings. Routes can be pre-considered and combined with others.

Formal operational stage (reached around the age of thirteen) -
The child comes into this state when it begins to connect abstract spatial relationships and can simultaneously detect all three dimensions (leftright, up-down, front-back).

This very general model of Piaget shows the different stages of development. It serves more as a guide, since external factors strongly influence the development of perception. In individual cases, the degree of interaction and familiarity with the environment is especially crucial for the development.

“Dressed like a bear” is an experiment, which offers the opportunity to explore the city and its details through the eyes of children, and provides the ability to compare them with our own perception. It shows photographs of urban places in London, which I have taken from a child‘s perspective combined with captions from children in the city and suburbs between the ages of 6 and 15.