Donne Buck and The Box of Photographs

April 22, 2016

“Before you begin,” says Donne Buck, almost immediately after picking up the phone, “I just want to make it clear that this whole thing isn’t a big ego trip for me. All of it – the archive and all that – is about trying to give recognition to a child’s right to play, and to the duty of local and national government to make provision for it. It’s not about trying to get credit for me personally.” Given his self-effacing focus on children’s play over himself, it makes sense that Buck would be comfortable behind the camera.

Arriving from New Zealand in the 1950s, Buck needed a job. That’s how he ended up working at the very first ‘Adventure Playground’ in Hackney – essentially a converted bomb-site. Over six decades Buck captured images of the inner-city playgrounds he worked in, beginning with post-war play spaces, and this gradually evolved into an internationally significant collection of photographs now housed in the V&A Museum of Childhood archive. These images of children playing are the inspiration for a new children’s play – The Box of Photographs – opening at Polka Theatre on April 22nd. Not bad, considering an ever-modest Buck insists that photography is something he was “really never very good at”.

In keeping with Buck’s pictures, The Box of Photographs positions the spotlight on young people. Last year, Polka Theatre ran a competition for children aged 8-11, asking them to look at some of Buck’s photos and respond with a story. From the hundreds of entries, 21 stories were selected: patchwork pieces woven together by writer Daniel Jamieson to create an original script. The result is an action-packed adventure about a girl escaping to a world where imagination rules.

Read the rest of Flossie Waite’s fantastic interview at Children’s Theatre Reviews.