Liam made this picture today. To many it will look like a snapshot.
This picture was made, not taken. And for that reason, it’s not a snapshot; it’s a photograph.
Photographers distinguish between taking and making a picture. If you see a scene, raise the camera to your eye (or, as is now the case with most small digital cameras, hold it at arm’s length in front of you) and fire away, you are taking a picture. If, on the other hand, you see a scene or subject, visualize how you want the final image to look, consider the background, think about your composition, analyze and–if necessary–modify the light, and thus create the means to achieve your vision–then you are making a photograph.
Liam is always cooking up and working out some idea in his head. He is great at visualizing and works hard to execute and achieve his vision. For this reason, he loves building toys: Legos, Snap Circuits, K’Nex. He also loves tape and paper and scissors because, to him, these are tools for creating things. One of his favorite Christmas gifts was a bag of various kinds of tape–duct, masking, transparent–from his grandma. Liam isn’t just building things; rather, he is creating with intent.
He’s often seen or helped me set up an environment for making portraits: set up a background, put up lights, measure, shoot, check, repeat. This evening he was building with his K’Nex blocks and evidently decided he wanted to make a picture of the tractor he built. As we were preparing for dinner, he was building a background for his photo session. He used two sheets of paper, a ruler, the lid from a container, and, of course, tape. All of this was unprompted: he didn’t ask me for advice or help; he just set himself to it.
After dinner I walked into the den and found him hard at work on the next phase of his project, making the pictures. Here are some “behind the scenes” images:
While reviewing his pictures on the camera’s monitor, Liam noticed that the white background didn’t fill the frame completely on some of the images–he hadn’t achieved his vision. We talked about how to correct this (move back physically from the subject and zoom in). Some were blurry (hold the camera steady after you focus). He wondered if maybe he should be using a tripod; I suggested that setting the camera on the floor would work for this session. He asked if there was a way to use the computer to take out parts of the image you don’t want, like the carpet instead of the white paper. Sometimes, I said, but it’s better to get it right “in camera” whenever you can. He wasn’t pleased with the way the shadows appeared in his photos; I told him we’d work on off-camera lighting another time. 🙂
As a photographer, I love the way he came up with this idea and then pulled it all together. Liam had a vision and worked with the tools he had at hand to execute that vision–brilliant. Not too shabby for a seven-year-old.
As his daddy, I just love him.