Moochin Photoman


This ain’t no Little League. This ain’t no formal Youth Soccer Association. This is what anthropologists call juvenile street culture. We’re talking about activities invented and maintained mainly by poor or working class city kids to keep themselves entertained and busy and out from under the feet of their parents. Ain’t no coaches, ain’t no trainers, ain’t no uniformed referees. It’s just kids playing street games.

Games like stickball, buck buck, steal the bacon, marbles, ringolevio, blue gooch, or curb ball. In Ireland, curb ball is known as kerbie (or cribby or kerbs or kerby, depending on your city and your neighborhood). The basic rules are simple and universal, though they’re elastic enough that different neighborhoods have their own variations. It basically involves two kids standing on opposite curbs, hurling a ball — any medium-sized round ball will work — at the opposite curb so that it bounces back. Like most street games, an audience of other kids (and sometimes adults) offering advice, encouragement, and insults is an important part of the culture.

But here’s the thing: street games draw street photographers. Helen Levitt, Humphrey Spender, Robert Doisneau — they all photographed city kids playing street games. Why? Because with street games there’s joy, there’s drama, there’s passion, there’s laughter, there’s intense physicality, and most of all there’s the unlimited exhuberance that only kids can bring. What John Baucher is doing here is part of a long photographic tradition — but in a way it doesn’t matter who’s taking the photograph. What matters is the game.

Doesn’t matter what it’s called. Doesn’t matter if you play to ten points or twenty-one. Doesn’t matter if you hurl the ball with one hand or two, whether you have to catch it before it bounces, whether your opponent can hurl the ball AT you if you miss the curb. What matters is the game and the fact that it’s fun and it’s free and you can play it until it gets too dark or until your momma calls you to supper.

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