Through the Lens



It takes a lot to surprise me. Maybe it's my personality, but I tend to think it's a result from getting older. As you climb the ladder of years, you see things. ("My eyes, they burn. Ze goggles do nothing!" - The Simpsons Season 7, Episode 2, circa 2008) You also experience both fantastically wonderful and fantastically horrific surprises to the nth degree so that a little good or bad surprise becomes a "meh" in a long line of "mehs." But when my well-read, highly educated and nanny-equipped cousin in California said her two children did NOT have cameras and she hesitated to get them a point-and-click, I was surprised.

This is a woman who went to Wharton School of Business (And don't you forget it. Don't worry, she won't let you. Love you, cuz.). She set out to marry well (she did), work hard and smart (she does), and do well (affirmative). She and her husband have two delightful kids along with two delightful nannies. She has a good head on her shoulders, substantial financial resources, and researched child-rearing opinions. Both her kids have IPODS allowing them to listen to music, proving technology isn't completely banned from the household. Knowing all of this, that is why I was so surprised to hear her poo-poo the idea of a child recording his experiences and perspectives with a camera.

My kids were all over the place with theirs. It was the Summer of 2012 and we were on a full-fledged adventure during the month of July. Along with my mother, the boys and I hopped the Amtrak bound for California. After explaining to young George that we would not be traveling as hobos, we settled into our Thumbelina-worthy (surprise!) sleeping berth, staying two nights and three days on the train. George and William christened it "our little home." We four enjoyed the meals in the dining car, the ample people-watching opportunities (Amish Represent!), and the hypnotic trance the changing landscape put us in.

The picture taking started early on. Here's us waiting for the Chicago-bound Megabus. There we are taking a water taxi on the Chicago River before we boarded the train. Us on the Amtrak.Us looking out the train window.Us playing games. It wasn't shutterbug mom either - well, it was me but I did not act alone. It was the boys who saw the most value in documenting this adventure. Do I think that they were deliberately thinking to themselves, "Gosh. We have to document this adventure!" Nice if it was true but it probably wasn't the case. However, watching them, I saw two boys seeing landscapes and people who seemed so different from our Midwest repertoire. Everything and everyone caught their eye. And when their eyes were captivated - click.

I have included some photos that illustrate what they deemed worthy to capture on film. Steel angles of the Bay Bridge.Container ships with large looming cranes.Lanes upon lanes of...lanes - and cars. A grimy and rusted industrial cite. Construction workers filling chuckholes. Hey, even a yellow slug bug! When we were packed in our rental mini-van, the boys photographed the flip-down TV along with the orange disc holder that held the coveted Modern Family and Monk DVDs.

Once we arrived at our residence for the month, that too was photographed. Everything from the lavender bushes, pool, the Frammy (If you have one, you might refer to her as "Grandma"), and cousin Connor. Ironically, many adults drive around with that bumper sticker on their car reminding us to not sweat the small stuff. And when it comes to photography, that's just what adults avoid but kids focus on. It's what makes kid photographers so awesome. Let me break it down: The lavender bushes were the home to many bees which made cousin Connor run around like a crazy person. The pool was used morning, noon and night so daily the kids would ask if we could build one in our yard. Daily, I answered, "No." Frammy serves as our family's touchstone while their cousin Connor snored all vacation like a bear in deep hibernation, making us a little angry at 5 a.m but thinking it funny as we looked back on it.

My boys, like most children, catch on film what I, like most adults, take for granted. It could be the angle of a building, the view from a certain vantage point, a wistful look on a face captured before the pose. But how do you convince someone that children notice the little pieces of the big puzzle? How do you show that, to a kid, taking photos is fun but also something they take seriously? Maybe you start out by telling that person how surprised they will be with what their child sees through the lens. Then tell them it is one of the nicer surprises life can offer - your child's insight.

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