Dora Maar, “Boy on the Corner of the Rue de Genets” (1933)

We see that the wall the boy is leaning against is probably the back wall of some kind of a workshop, be it a garage or factory. Judging by the boy’s face he is trying to rest – drifting off, in a state of semi-sleep, semi-awake – right on his legs. His clothes are disheveled and he looks tired but at the same time, somehow, busy.

Is he selling himself, as some of his gestures seem to hint or just appealing to the mercy of anyone who might help a child in need, in poverty? May be, the reasons aren’t even so important why he is there… may be, he habitually stands on the corner of the Rue de Genets. The point is – the child of his age standing around near street sign with its name on it and seems to be soliciting from casual passersby something (even without knowing what) which he lacks or cannot get in any other ways.

The widespread reaction to this situation (today, as decades ago), is either the nasty suspicion that the kid is just “making business” while pretending to be poverty-ridden or even homeless and hungry or that he is exploiting his predicament to get a handout on the street instead of working or looking for corresponding agencies established for the purpose of helping children. To think like this is the habitual trick of those who identify poverty with immorality and a façade for illegal or pervert behavior. Instead of offering to a child some disinterested help this sort of people will indulge in twisting the problem to justify their indifference and philistinism. In a decent society a child has to be protected against the circumstances forcing him to stand around the corners or walk along the walls while appealing to passersby. There are numerous sentimental photographs about children in poverty, but Dora Maar in her “Boy on the Corner of the Rue de Genets” adds to the popular topic making human compassion too easy – the ambiguity of the cause of why a child in poverty has to be dependent on pedestrians.

Dora Maar, “Boy Holding a Cat” (1934)

Was this boy protectively embracing the cat – forced out of the door we see near him by his parents or relatives who didn’t want the cat inside their home? The door doesn’t look like belonging to a private residence. May be, he has just bought it or even saved the cat abandoned by its previous owner(s)? May be, these owners were mistreating and abusing the poor cat, and this made our boy so protective – he hold the creature, as if he feels responsible for its life in front of the world. Anyway, whatever the reasons of his protective passion, he obviously projects towards his cat his soul’s bonding energies.

But observing the photograph longer we feel something more here than boy’s noble desire to care about a beautiful animal like cat – nurture its little flame. It’s possible that the boy doesn’t just guard the cat’s chance to enjoy life like every living being wants. By being a bit obsessively protective toward the feline the boy can be prone unconsciously identify with its loneliness and a lack of attendance. May be, he himself in his own family feels not loved, not cared enough, emotionally abandoned. But by friendship with a cat, by being, as if, its elder brother he is also attending… himself. Now, he has a cat who will love him in response, share its warmth, play with him, who in a way – will encircle him with its, cat’s attention.

Each mother is also a child to her child. Alive beings in relationships know the two poles of mutuality, and play the both with one another in emotional palette of reciprocity, which is the content of relationship. It’s not only the cat is happy that the boy has adopted her, but the boy is equally happy that he found her. He, may be, belongs to his family, but the cat can become his own family. And he may enjoy new elements in mutual relation with the cat which he couldn’t discover in his togetherness with his parents, relatives or friends. Every person and every creature can improvise their own particularities of emotional togetherness which are original and an independent world for them to study, to learn, to love and to live through – in a life, where too many people stay emotionally hungry and underdeveloped.