polis: a collective blog about cities worldwide

The Just Metropolis: Street Kids

by Peter Sigrist

Melissa's "Cities for Children?" post brought to mind the importance of kids in matters of social justice. Anyone would agree that children shouldn't have to live in poverty. Still, it's far from simple to assure that everyone starts on equal footing.

Roger Mayne has documented children living in urban poverty with striking intimacy. One of his series focuses on London's Southam Street between 1956 and 1961, not long before it was demolished to make way for Trellick Tower. He photographed kids around the neighborhood each day, revealing their potential as well as their increasingly fragile hopes.

How can we help children escape poverty? What if we were to secure their rights to quality environments, sustenance, health care, and education? Would this limit personal freedoms, create dependencies, require a powerful (and potentially overbearing, inefficient, corrupt, or unattainable) bureaucracy? I'd like to answer no, but I'm not sure.

This post is aggravatingly full of questions when we really need ideas and action. As humans, we're able to recognize injustices and find creative ways of eliminating them. Perhaps we can expand upon these abilities by investing in disadvantaged kids.

Credits: All images scanned from The Street Photographs of Roger Mayne, published by the Victoria and Albert Museum.