Our lives are overwhelmed with thousands and thousands of images. Every gadget we carry with us is capable of taking a snapshot of moments we share with friends, family, nature, pets, ourselves. There seems to be an absolute compulsion to share photos of every little thing in life. I wonder if you, like me, find it all a little bewildering and something of a pressure.
I recently had the pleasure and delight of having both of my grown-up children staying with me for a total of five or six nights. In the past when we have been together I've felt an enormous pressure to record the event. It has seemed a necessity to get some proof that we've been together. You might find it easier to understand if you know that we live far enough apart that it takes an overnight ferry to visit each other, or a plane trip. It's pretty special to have us all together. I have a collection of odd photos to prove that we have been together on those other occasions but both of my kids are somewhat camera shy...or they think it is really uncool to have mum take photos...I'm not really sure what it is but the photos usually show them making some weird gesture or another...or pulling silly faces. They are always completely uncooperative about it. Perhaps if they ever become parents themselves they might better understand how precious those images can be to we mums. My dream is to have a 'nice' photo of the three of us together.
This time I let go of that 'need'. I was busy working during the daylight hours and most of the rest of the time we just sat and chatted or knitted together (my daughter and I) or we were in the car heading to and from the airport. This time I just did my best to enjoy the short time we had to spend together. It was nice and I actually felt more relaxed.
I take a lot of photographs at work. Part of the work of an early childhood teacher is to 'document' learning. Much of the learning for young children takes place through play, and often a photograph is the best way to record some wonderful learning undertaken though dramatic play or even with play dough. When patterns are made with stones or block constructions created, they are the children's learning work. If there is nothing to show then it can be assumed that not much is happening, so we document through photographs. This too can become such a dominant part of our work as to actually begin to detract from experiences rather than enhance them. It takes a measure of discernment and restraint to avoid overtaxing the patience of the children who are then made aware that they are being observed. That can interrupt the flow of their play.
I try to remind myself to be aware that I am there for the children and that their learning is the reason for me. I am there to teach them and to observe their learning. Whilst I must make judgements and record in order to inform parents and other staff members, it is important to give myself to the children while they are learning. My core work is to help them question and problem-solve in their games and play 'work' so that they are best equipped for life and learning.
It's good to leave the camera sitting dormant sometimes. I might miss a fantastic opportunity for a great photo, but if I'm always looking at life through a camera lens, I will miss many wonderful opportunities to connect with the important people in my life, whether they be my own children, other family members or my students. In some ways, I think looking at life through a lens robs me of the gift of living in the moment. The level of awareness that comes with living in the moment is what gives life its true richness and wonder.
I hope one day I will get a photo of myself and my kids together. The last one I have is many, many years old. In the meantime I'll treasure the quirky odd shots I have of the pair of them and instead do my best to really listen to them and be present with them on the rare and precious occasions that we do get together. I have a head full of lovely memories of conversations and facial expressions and that is all I need.
Well, that's me for tonight. I was heading to bed early but decided to pop some biscuits in the oven for some special visitors that are coming to our class tomorrow. A teacher's work is never done! At least while they were in the oven I found the time to write. Let me know what you think about our obsession with taking photos these days. Do you take photos of every little thing you do? Do you save the snaps for special occasions? Or do you have some other approach?
Cheers for now