Photographing little explorers

Children are natural explorers. They have an unquenchable need to know and they use all their senses to understand the world. Babies and little kids make experiments on physical objects by touching, smelling, tasting, sticking things in their ears and breaking them apart. And as good parents and educators, we should give them freedom to learn and create more opportunities to gain knowledge about physical properties of our world.

Little boy picking rocks.
Geologist. Discovering rocks and minerals.

Nevertheless, although aware of this powerful drive to learn in little humans, I remember myself often trying to prevent my little daughter to explore the world when I was quite sure it equals her complete self-destruction. Somehow self-preservation instinct didn’t seem to kick in in her little exploring brain, but self-destruction was close.

 I was doing my best to keep the balance between rescuing my baby from getting injured and giving her space to grow into a more or less independent being. So I let her fall now and then. And get dirty. And then fall again.

 But what to do when the children you are going to photograph couldn’t care less about you and your camera and are proceeding to explore? What if they want to explore the sand by tasting it, putting it into their mouths in handfuls and devouring it like I would do with nutella on my bad day? What if they direct their attention to the ground contemplating green grass and pebbles? I don’t know what other photographers do or whether they have clever ways to make a few months-old babies hypnotized by the ground they’re sitting on to interact with the camera.

Baby boy tasting sand.
Physicist. Using taste buds to explore the properties of a granular material.

 I usually just roll with it. After all, why not simply capture this stage of exploration? Instead of trying to get some arbitrary “perfect shot”, let’s enjoy the sense of wonder of little kids and maybe, just maybe, we will even learn something from them. In the end, our adult brains still have some malleable neurons that we can use to explore new lands of skills and knowledge. And the images of little explorers can remind us about that.



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