These days, most people I know consider themselves a photographer. Using a smartphone, every person is now able to snap a moment in time that captures a feeling, or an image that, once taken, becomes a piece of documented history – a marker, a piece of evidence, an anecdote. The quick and effortless no-fuss tap of a finger makes being a photographer all the more graceful and appealing. The freedom to take multiple shots, instantly framed and filtered and, three taps later, widely shared across the globe, encourages our practice, and inspires the content.
Our smartphones are light, neat and remarkable in the quality of the images they can produce. We pop them into our back pockets on our nature walks, snap a square shot of the next serving of ‘avo on toast’, boomerang a butterfly tentatively perched on a leaf, zoom in to our smile to boost our next selfie, or superimpose a moustache onto a newborn baby. We use our photos to find the fault in our engines, to tell a story, to make a connection, to enhance a relationship. We rely on our photos to show who we are, what we think, who we love, what we value. We share our holiday adventures with family back home, or create virtual tours of our new homes for friends on other continents; we capture and save images that we hope to return to later, but don’t worry if we don’t, knowing it is safely stored somewhere in the cloud. What was once a hobby or a highly valued profession that relied on expensive and complex tools, has now become an ordinary, everyday and expected part of all of our lives.
In our Early Learning Centres, we take hundreds of photos every day. Too many, maybe; however, a large part of what we do is to closely observe the children in their everyday interactions, and find ways to unpack and reflect on each child’s developmental pathways. We think carefully about what we provide and how best to support every child in his or her learning and growing. By sharing photos of our days with families, we hope to enhance the connection between home and school, knowing that this gives each child the best chance to thrive.
We know, too, that just like a photographer’s use of a wide-angle or telescopic lens, we position our gaze onto what lies beyond the immediate view, and think about each child as he readies himself for that more distant position and place. We know that if we steady our view now, we will see and expect more to become evident later. The young preschool-leaver who is able to demonstrate his ability to think and problem-solve, to be self-reliant and independent, to be creative and collaborative and to persevere and try again, will emerge later on, in sharp focus, as the wholesome, hardworking, and accomplished Year 12 graduate, so similar to those we are about to applaud as the 2020 HSC exams stretch to an end.
I, together with many of our Early Years educators, have been privileged to know many of our High School graduates, who started off in one of our Early Learning Centres all those years ago (when taking a photograph was a whole different story), relatively new to the world, eager-to-please, eager-to-learn little beings, finding joy in friendship, a sense of belonging to a community, and the meaning of what it is to be a mensch.
We have a chance, in every click, to say something. Perhaps we take photographs to better understand our lives, or to ensure we have witness to our growth, or to know where best to stand in order to see our lives in context. No matter why, we are blessed to live in a time where our stories can be documented and shared, with fewer words, and perhaps more feeling. A time when each one of us is a photographer.
About the author
Cathy Milwidsky is the Director of Early Learning and Development at Moriah College in Queens Park, NSW