CNN Photos

Growing up in the Tasmanian bush

In the green and sparsely populated Fingal Valley, on the Australian island of Tasmania, the children play in a free and simple way that doesn’t seem possible in this day and age.

With few means of entertainment and little supervision, all the children in the area have gotten together for years to play in the bush, photographer Sarah Rhodes said.

“The boys took to the plantation forest with machetes and axes,” she said. “They burnt native grasses (and) lit their own fires — with just a flint — to cook themselves a steak.”

They were even allowed to sleep in a cubby house overnight and cook their dinner when one of the boys was just 8 years old.

They are now on their third cubby, Rhodes said. The first burned down after they built a fire inside, and the second was washed away during a flood.

“Children become very resourceful and good at amusing themselves without the stimulation their city counterparts are exposed to,” Rhodes said.

As one boy told her, "Our imagination is our greatest resource.”

She began this project in 2008, and since then most of the children have gone to boarding school in a city about an hour and a half away. But they still get together on weekends.

Rhodes sees themes from “Lord of the Flies” in her photos of them - they arm themselves against an invisible enemy, build their own shelters, lose their innocence - and she titles the images with quotes from the book.

In an essay on Rhodes' work, Jane Stratton described their play as mirroring the adult world.

“It does not necessarily (as your first adult impulse may lead us to think) give us a sneak peek into the secret world of children,” Stratton wrote. “They are playing at being adults, playing at life.”

Even though Rhodes is the same age as some of their parents, the children have never viewed her as an adult, Rhodes said.

“The children always saw me as the photographer with what they called a ‘black box,’ recording their pride and joy,” she said. “They are very proud of what we are making together and recently thanked me for bringing out the best in them and encouraging them to ‘be the best that they could be.’ ”

Rhodes grew up in a country town, so she connects somewhat. She’s always loved the bush, and her brother was very resourceful and would build little contraptions like these boys, she said.

Rhodes now has a 10-month-old son, and she’s asked the boys to teach him how to build a cubby when he’s older — so he can learn from the best.

- Lauren Russell, CNN

Rhodes' work will be on display at the Brooklyn Bridge Park on June 18 as part of the "Fence" project.