On Seeing, A Journal. #437

Growing Up: Thomas Wollman

June 15, 2021




Typically, I work on several projects at once. For the past three decades my longest-lasting endeavor, and the one closest to my heart, has been to follow almost 200 hundred children, some starting when they were newborns (the images of which were published in my book Newborn, and others when they were not yet 10, making annual studio portraits and asking them, once they learned to read and write, to write answers to a series of questions, a kind of diary, about their lives, their feelings, their hopes, their regrets.)

My enthusiasm for this project and curiosity about the mysterious process of “growing up” has not abated over the years. The participants are not kids any more; my affection and respect for them has grown with them. The annual portrait and diary sessions have continued up to last March when the Pandemic prevented studio photo-shoots.  Thanks to COVID vaccinations, we have recently restarted.

I have watched each young person grow and mature capturing how they’ve changed through the years. Some of this work has appeared in museum exhibitions, magazines and two monographs. But the majority of what I’ve called “Growing Up” remains unpublished.

After following these children, many on a yearly basis, into their twenties, I am ready to publish, to show through the portraits I’ve made and the words they have written, how they have grown into a remarkable group of young adults. The participants contributed significantly and worked at being as honest as possible in writing their annual diaries. The stories they tell and the emotions they express are revealing, heartening, delightful.

This special young man, Thomas Wollman, proved to be as unique, fascinating and genuine as any of the many young people I have had the privilege to get to know.


9 years


11 years old


13 years old


From 14 years of age and on, I was not able to read (decipher) Thomas’ handwriting and therefore asked him to type everything he had written.  I think it is a universal problem among young people who use computers and cell phones; handwriting is becoming a lost ability.


14 years old


15 years old


16 years old


17 years old


23 years old


25 years old



Thomas,  thank-you so much and, please, thank mom and dad.

And “Hi,” to your sister who recently came in for her yearly photo shoot.
Please do return in a few years.************************************************************

I am interested in everything about human development. I am fascinated by maturation, growth, emotional, educational and physical development.  My exploration, a major 30 year odyssey, has been an adventure that has yielded riches beyond my imagining.
Permission was signed by the parents of each and every child every year, and by the participants themselves once they turned 18. In addition, we have now sent copies of all of their writings and edited photographs to the participants for whom I have finished all my editing and have received full permission from that group to publish and post. A few chose to use pseudonyms.