The Eyes of a Child

“…innocence of eye has a quality of its own. It means to see as a child sees, with freshness and acknowledgment of the wonder; it also means to see as an adult sees who has gone full circle and once again sees as a child – with freshness and an even deeper sense of wonder.” – Minor White

This past week I taught a kids photography camp, my latest entry into the “What was I thinking?!” file of actions. Once I got over the shell shock of dealing with adolescent girls (mind you, I have no children of my own), there were a few interesting observations. Not unexpectedly they had little difficulty learning the technical side of photography. Unlike so many of the adults I teach they didn’t regard their camera as something that might actually hurt them. Processing their images in Lightroom was also a breeze. If there is one thing that doesn’t intimidate a child it is a computer. But the biggest and most important difference from adults was in their photos.

They were fearless when it came to making pictures. With no concern for failure, they shot everything and anything. Buildings, flowers, the sidewalk, benches, desks in a classroom. And they did it from every possible perspective. Lying on their stomach, on their back shooting upward, from this angle and that angle. Sure, many if not most of the images didn’t work, but that’s not the point. They did exactly what one should do when learning to make photos: experiment. And they had zero concern as to whether or not the images would be good, all they cared about was the act. Results didn’t matter, it was all about the experience for them. And every now and then some of them made truly wonderful images, a couple that I even wanted to claim as my own (fortunately they’re too young to know about copyright. Just kidding). 

One of the biggest barriers to seeing is bias. For adults a lifetime of experiences brings about good things, but it also causes us to have judgments, prejudices, and biases. We worry if this image has been done before, either by us or by another photographer. We ask ourselves if anyone will like it, or what use it may ultimately have. Children have no such concerns. At this age they are blessedly unaware or unconcerned with the likes and shares BS of social media. They haven’t seen a lifetime of photos with which to judge against their own and they have no body of work to compare the next image they make to. It is ignorance in perhaps its most positive form. As adult photographers it is a lesson for all of us. We need to strive to see with the eyes of a child, to regard the world without judgment and fear, but rather with wonder and joy.

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