My thoughts on kids’ way of seeing things

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August 11 2007 – I wrote this article in May 2009 in Swedish. I’ve tried to translate this into English and I hope you will enjoy the reading.

Kids’ don’t miss anything. They miss absolutely nothing. They see and they have this almost sharp way of seeing. You can see how they see things with that special look in their eyes. I often recognize myself in their way of seeing things and I remember myself and how I was looking at things when I was a kid. This way of seeing things usually disappears when we grow up.

A good example of kids’ who see and adults who still have this way of seeing is this classic image of the Swedish children’s book author Astrid Lindgren (this photo by Torbjörn Andersson became Photo of the Year in 1997). It’s very clear to me that this photographer never misses anything either. How many would have actually seen this event in the midst of everything. How many would have actually missed this situation. Not the kids’, because they don’t miss anything.

All kids’ have a photographer’s eye. To have eye contact with kids’ is like having eye contact with other photographers who also see.

I usually say that you can see if a person sees. Or if a photographer sees. If there is a “flat meeting” in the eye contact or if it becomes like a “deep dive”. This may sound weird, but I can’t describe it in any other way. It’s always a “deep dive” in the meeting with kids’, just because they see. Perhaps they will stop seeing when they grow up and misses everything that they didn’t miss when they were kids’.

I’m still a kid in my way of seeing things. I didn’t lose my seeing. Maybe that’s why I became a photographer. Perhaps there is a reason that some lose their way of seeing and some don’t.

It would have been interesting putting a camera in every kid’s hands. What images would it be. Maybe they will rediscover their way of seeing things, when they look at their own images again when they are adults.

I remember one time when we stopped the car at a crosswalk, a kid and her mother were passing over. The mother was walking in front of her daughter and seemed stressed (talking in her cell phone) while her daughter (around 5 years old) was walking behind. Suddenly, she looked straight into my eyes where I was sitting in the car. She missed nothing. What if she had had a camera in her hand and could have documented what she saw, all that her mother was missing.

If you look around the next time  you’re out you will notice all these kids’ who see.

20 comments

  1. I think you’re absolutely right about children’s powers of seeing, Malin – and also right about these abilities mostly being lost as they grow up. Like you, I think I’ve retained these abilities, although I made no conscious efforts to do so – I’ve just been seeing striking visual things all my life.

    Friends gave their 2 or 3 year old daughter a toy digital camera and let her take pictures around their home. The results were surprising. Of course she was looking at and photographing things from a much lower viewpoint than adults would, and so the images were unusual in that respect. But, at that very early age, she also seemed to have a distinct style of her own. A :)

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    1. I photograph mostly plants, and I long ago learned that the best pictures often come from getting down low and seeing my subjects from that vantage point. Sometimes I even lie on the ground and aim upward. I don’t know if that makes me a child at heart, but it has led to some good photographs.

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      1. Thank you very much for your thoughts, Steve – much appreciated!

        I always used to lie down on the floor when I was photographing my daughter (at the same level as her) when she was a baby. And I have done the same thing with flowers too… So I know what you mean.

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    2. I think we are much alike, Adrian.
      I’ve also been seeing visual things all my life and I see this as a gift.

      Is that the same daughter that assaulted you with a compact camera?

      Thank you so much for your thoughts about this, my friend.
      Much appreciated!

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  2. You are so right about the way children see – I think it may have something to do with the way they are so untainted by expectations, they can actually look straight at what is in front of them without everything getting in the way.

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  3. What a wonderful piece of writing, Malin! So very true.
    I think some people are naturally gifted with seeing things as they are and have a finely tuned ability to catch wonderful moments. Kids definitely have this gift, although it might slowly fade as they age.

    The image you included here is simply magical. A perfect moment, a perfect street photograph.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much, Mike! I’m glad you liked this post.
      And you’re absolutely right, some people are naturally gifted.
      I’m very happy that you also like the image. It’s from a cruising event. :)

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  4. Really glad to read this text, dear Malin!!. And loved this photo very much, just wonderful – could be a frame for a film! (hmmm…I am starting to imagine what happens before and after…)
    And I hope I never loose that eye either…

    “I would like to recapture that freshness of vision which is characteristic of extreme youth when all the world is new to it.”

    (Henri Matisse)

    Thank you! (…smiling…)

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    1. Thank you so much, my friend for your thoughts and this very good quote from Matisse!
      Smiling back at you and I wish you a fantastic day!

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  5. Hi Malin very nice post!
    I was also thinking about your thoughts lately and I think Picasso formulated it appropriately. “Every child is an artist. The problem is staying an artist when you grow up.” So to stay curious and see the world with children´s eyes let the world appear as a match richer place to be.

    Liked by 1 person

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