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Out of the Cameras of Babes

Photography has pretty much become my family hobby. Why? Because if I do something everyone else has to do it. I can’t have anything to myself. That’s why!

Anyway, I’ve learned to accept this, and so for Christmas, I decided to buy both my niece, Nevaeh (age 3), and my nephew, Kaspien (age 2), digital cameras. This was also in some way a gift to their parents as it removed the children’s needs to take the “grown up cameras” and break them.
I did a bit of research on kid cameras and came to the conclusion that the Fisher Price Kid Tough brand of Digital Cameras had just the bit of indestructibility that would be needed for the kind of abuse that I knew the kids would be likely to put them through. I bought two of them and the kids seem to be quite taken with them.
Anyway, now that they’ve had them for nine months, I got to thinking what quality of images could the kids come up with. Obviously, the camera is impoverished, even more so than the one in my iPhone, which I’m using for the daily cellphone project, but the sensor in the Kid Tough camera is a whopping .31 megapixels and only capable of producing a 640×480 image with considerable grain. There is no flash. There is no control over ISO, aperture or shutter speed (not that the kids would be able to understand it anyway). Basically, it’s as no frills as it gets. That said, for a two/three year old to run around and document their world, this is more than sufficient.
I was actually pretty impressed with the results. Obviously neither kid has any formal photography training at all. But unlike adults, who have to learn a new technology, since they’ve grown up in a world where digital cameras have simply always existed, they have no problem adapting to their use and each of them developed their own style of taking photographs. Both of the kids have given me permission to republish their photowork here in this forum. Much like the cellphone photos, I’ve done a small amount of post processing work on the photos, most notably to sharpen the images given the dull sensors, but the artistic vision of each image is 100% that of the kids.
Nevaeh Thomas Photography

Nevaeh1-thumb-300x225-94Nevaeh, at age three has learned the base secret of successful photojournalism. Namely, take your camera with you everywhere you go. The photos seen here were taken at her daycare. She enjoys taking photos of everyday objects around her, things that she tends to interact with: A photo of her own feet. A portrait of a classmate. A flashcard board. Much like the photography that an adult photojournalist might perform she has taken to seeing something that she finds interesting and snapping a photo of it, generally from her own perspective.

What is interesting about Nevaeh’s work is that the things that she choose to photograph tend to be objects on her own level. The photo of her own feet is essentially indistinguishable from a similar photo that an adult might take as they’re testing out a new camera and experimenting with interesting camera angles.
Nevaeh2-thumb-300x225-97By contrast the portrait she took of a classmate is taken head on and in a very familiar tone. The expression of the subject is warm, inviting and natural and one assumes she has some rapport with the photographer.
The truly interesting thing about this photo is that it is taken from the perspective of a three year old. The model in the photo is clearly not an adult and as adults we typically envision such subjects as smaller than us as viewer, looking down on them creating a more diminutive effect than normal, however, as the photographer is of a similar size to the model, we instead see the child in a way we are not normally accustomed. At eye-level. The differences in anatomical proportions between children and adults become very prominent when viewed like this and the effect is definitely striking.
If I have any criticism here for her here it’s that she cropped out the subjects hands and the very top of her head. Oh well, she’s three, she’s learning. What are you gonna do?
Nevaeh3-thumb-300x225-100Finally, Nevaeh shares with us a photo of a flashcard board in her classroom. An object that she probably interacts with quite frequently, however most adult viewers would have little experience with. As I said, the job of a photo journalist is to invite us into and document her world.
Without knowing anything about photography at all, she did a couple of very intriguing things here.
One she filled the frame. This works particularly well in this image, because if one were to be interacting with the board, they would not do it from across the room where they’d view the entire board at once, rather instead they would stand right next to it, concentrating on one or two numbers at a time while the rest of the sign falls off in the periphery of their vision.
Secondly, she lined the shot up quite naturally into a rule of thirds grid. Obviously she knows nothing of this concept, so i can only assume that she stood next to the sign and moved forward and backwards (the camera has a fixed lens, so she wouldn’t be able to zoom) until the image “looked right” to her and snapped the picture. She even got a little bit of a tilt angle to the photo, which i will assume in accidental. Still, the result is pleasing, particularly with the vibrant colors the the sign displays.
Kaspien Thomas Photography

Kaspien1-thumb-300x225-103Kaspien, being a year younger than Nevaeh is certainly less refined and dedicated to the craft, but he has certainly taken to a definite style of photography that becomes quite interesting when you contrast it with that of hers. He is less meticulous and more apt to point the camera and shoot, which means that while she gets a more well planned and composed shot (at least as much as a three year old can plan), he gets much more natural and dynamic photos. Less pretty but more energetic.

Similarly, Kaspien is doing what most people do with a camera. He is documenting the world as he sees it. However, unlike Nevaeh, Kaspien tends to document the adult world from a child’s perspective (as opposed to a child world from the child’s perspective).
As such, while she shows us on the level views of objects we don’t normally interact with, Kaspien shows us objects we might see every day but from an angle we would never experience. For instance this photo of the back headrest of the a seat in a car, taken from his vantage point in a carseat, well lower than the eye level we’d normally view this at as adults, but interesting when one realizes that this is the exact angle of this common everyday object that he sees every day.
Kaspien2-thumb-300x225-106Instead of taking portraits of other children on his eye level, Kaspien focuses most of his photos on adults around him. This lends to one of two types of photos.
First he shoots at his own eye level, several feet shorter than his subject is which gives us a view of a headless, faceless adult, one of many in the world of a child, forced to interact with an ever changing succession of legs and buttocks, placed right at our eye level.
Looking at this photo, I am immediately drawn to memories of a typical childlike behavior exhibited by many toddlers. Namely, when they are frightened by the presence of an unknown individual they will seek comfort and protection by tugging at the pants leg of a parent or other familiar adult. The impetus behind this behavior becomes immediately obvious when one notices how familiar this view must be to an individual hovering around the two foot tall range.

Kaspien3-thumb-300x225-109His other alternative is to shoot for the face of the individuals he wishes to capture. But since they are far above his eye level we end up with an opposite effect to what is typical of adults taking photos of children. Namely that we are looking up at the subject and this angle makes the subject look far larger and more imposing than they otherwise would.

It’s also an angle that we tend to never see people from and this creates a fair amount of tension and pull to the photo which makes it interesting in a way that a typical snapshot from an adult might not be.
The work of both kids was quite interesting and I thank them both (as well as their parents) for sharing with me and allowing me to share with all of you. One would hope that some lessons about photography (namely angle, and familiarity with subject) can be gleaned from them. I’m sure they’ll both be shooting for National Geographic by this time next year.

3 comments for “Out of the Cameras of Babes

  1. avatar
    September 3, 2010 at 7:11 pm

    Clearly this is documented proof of two clearly prodigious young photographers. That is my totally unbiased opinion.

  2. avatar
    September 3, 2010 at 7:13 pm

    And if I wasn’t currently distracted by one of them, my previous comment would have made much better sense.

  3. avatar
    September 3, 2010 at 7:56 pm

    I just LOVE to see the perspective of a child! The day before my middle child’s last day of summer vacation before kindergarten, I gave her daddy’s old camera and was like you, impressed with her perspective. My older child also has some very artsy pics, though again like you said, the quality of the camera (or lack there of) is evident, but there is a cool, artsy look about them. Thanks for sharing Lynn!

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