Last winter someone gave me a Nexus Android device they got at a Google event. It didn’t have phone service so I gave it to my son to play with. He took to it immediately, especially having a mobile camera. He started snapping pictures of everything. Then sharing them. As a result, earlier this summer we got him a camera – a simple Canon point and shoot. He also took a photo class this summer. At the end of the class they printed their pictures on a office printer and made photo albums.
It reminded me of a photo class I took when I was 14 or 15. I remember clearly the purple hue of the dark room; I can still recall the smell of the chemicals and the magical process of watching a photo come to life in a pool of substances. I remember the photo kids with their beefy eyes dilated from too much time in those dark rooms. I got sad for my boy, thinking that he would totally miss the process of creation, the science of it, the solitary and group pursuit. He wouldn’t get to experience the context, rather than only the content.
Then something happened. He started fooling around with his “cameras.” Snapping pictures of the world as he, a 4 foot kid, saw it. He began testing the limit of what an automated camera could do. For example, he found that if he put his finger in front of the lens it would focus on the finger, yet if he pulled the finger away right while snapping the photo, he would get a blurry yet interesting photo:
He also experimented with layered pictures – taking photos of photos:
In a taxi yesterday afternoon we were chatting and while looking at me and talking he lifted his camera to the window and snapped a photo of the outside motion, without looking. A new style he was trying, he told me.
All these techniques were driven by his ability to see the photos immediately after taking the picture. He could see, right away, the results of his tinkering. Something rarely available in the past.
As a result, he became fearless. About experimenting, using what he had but also trying new techniques, methods. Seeing the results and reacting to them, altering them, discarding them. In real time. He’s wondering if should save up and get at some point a digital single-lens reflect camera. Maybe he will, maybe he will lose interest in all of this.
Regardless, a new technology, one that I worried took away a most part of the process for him (using the lens of my own experience), instead taught him something much different. And maybe more important. And he didn’t need to inhale any chemicals to learn that.