Several years ago I made the image above and dubbed it, “Girl with a Feather”. It has been one of my best sellers and I know why. Two reasons really, the first is that a few people immediately remarked that it reminds them of a scene out of Star Wars because of its otherworldly quality. The second reason, I believe, is that the girl in front playing with a feather is a universally endearing image of a child absorbed in what comes naturally to them; creating through play. Anyone who has been around kids knows that when they are absorbed in this type of activity it’s difficult to drag them away. Sure enough, after I took the photograph I watched her mom coax her reluctantly to continue on their way. When I first put the image up on my computer screen to process it, my imagination matched that of the Star Wars comment. She’s planting a feather on the Planet Bandon I thought! With that, I was elated at having captured this serendipitous moment. And, by the way, so was the young girl’s family who received printed copies of it.
When I think about what it is that compells children to bring home with them feathers, sticks and stones, it occurs to me that kids are little, close to the ground that is. From that perspective they can easily see everything right beneath their feet. And to them that means treasures everywhere because there is an abundance of shimmery, wet, gooey, tactile and maybe even stinky things on the ground. Kind of like dogs, they “sniff” out all that is beneath their feet and if it’s fun stuff they become laser focused. One might dare to say, they delve into a zone-like state where everything else drops off their radar and they simply enjoy being in the moment. Thus, whether child or dog, it may be difficult to regain their attention. You can probably guess where I’m headed with this story.
“The camera is an instrument that teaches people how to see without a camera.” ~ Dorothea Langee
I believe that photography is allowing me to embark on that full circle journey and begin to see with the eyes of a child again. My adult dulled senses are more often able to see with “freshness and an even deeper sense of wonder” than they were apt to pre-photography days. I am able to once again tune into the environment, particularly the natural world, with the joy of a child. I attribute this to an increased level of awareness resulting from years of looking through a camera lens searching for wonderment within my surroundings. While out on a beach shoot a few months ago I experienced something that illustrates this phenomenon.
There I was on the sand, hopeful that color and clouds would appear for the wide angle image that I was seeking. I waited but nothing manifested in the way that I desired. At first, I was feeling a bit disappointed, however, I soon noticed that the light began to shine on the ground in such a way that tiny objects tucked away in the sand were beginning to shimmer and glisten. Out came my macro lens and away I went like a child “scooping up” treasures everywhere. I was in a blissful zone for the rest of the light playing with my camera, oblivious to time and place.
What I find amusing is that I initially saw an image of a tiny feather and a stick below it that my imagination immediately envisioned as a wizard’s wand. (Thank you, Winguardium Leviosa.) With that acquisition, the hunt to unearth more treasure began. As if a spell had been cast on me, I was off on an adventure tracking down images that became my cache of wands, wings and magic stones. I noticed that some items were tattered and torn, worse for the wear, perhaps improperly handled by an over zealous student of incantations. Others were pritine, possibly newly acquired. When we’re in our child’s mind we discover enchantment everywhere!
Everything you can imagine is real ~ Pablo Picasso
I will end with this anecdote and words of wisdom: When my husband is looking for something that is really right in front of him I usually say with humor, “Use your grown-up eyes.” And, he has taken to saying the same to me.
Well, the opposite is sometimes true as well.
So here’s my suggestion to anyone who has ever had difficuly finding their image: Next time there isn’t a “good” sky and you’re feeling disappointment, yes, you know what I’m about to say, put on your child’s eyes… or even your dog’s eyes and you’re bound to be beguiled.
Here’s to summoning the awe and wonder of our little child!
P.S. Make sure to check out the Wingardium Leviosaaa clip below from Harry Potter! 🙂
* Thank you to Steve Dimock who took the image Charley and me.
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