(please excuse the quality of this iPhone picture to illustrate the point of this story – thank you Karissa for this picture!)
You might have caught the post I did last week about David’s brother and his family, expecting their second little lady any day now. Half way through the quick shoot, my sweet niece Addison asked if she could take my picture, so I promised her at the end she could. She had me sit down on the stool we had her use during the shoot and her Uncle David helped her hold the camera to take my picture. Addison only needed to take one to be satisfied, and off she went. But that exchange really had an impact on me.
I’ve noticed that when I photograph young children that know me really well (family, children of our close friends), they want to return the favor. They want to photograph me once I’ve photographed them. And sure, part of it might just be that they are interested in all this equipment that I am hauling around but I don’t know, I think there is more to it. Call me crazy and over-analyzing but I think this is worth unpacking. Children are so pure in their responses like this… they are showing me something important about being a person who makes pictures of other people. There is an exchange that happens when I am photographing someone… I am telling that person or people that I SEE them. That they are important enough for me to truly look at. That it’s worth my time to thoughtfully photograph them among the people they love the most. The people that ask me to photograph them are telling me that I have earned their trust enough to at least be a little vulnerable with me, and that they will allow me to capture a glimpse of who they are. I believe in the purity of a young child’s social filter they sense the exchange that happens. The “I am going to trust you and you are going to trust me and we will create something together” of it all. So they want to say back to me that they see me as well. And while I certainly don’t expect or need this to happen at every shoot, it really is precious to be “seen” back by a little heart that I care so much about.