This summer, we gave our 4-year-old a kid’s camera for his birthday. I’ve seen plenty of portraits, and too many pictures of apartments as we’ve looked for places to live. I have an idea of what photos ought to look like, and I know what subjects I’d snap a shutter at.
They weren’t the same things my 4-year-old photographed. He took uncounted pictures of shadows across the carpet: shadows from the box fan, shadows from chairs, shadows from blinds. He took a dozen more pictures through the window of his daddy driving off to work. Despite standing on tip-toe, he captured as much windowsill as parking lot in his frame.
The photos of his brother are close-up, all eyes and nose, or just his toes peeking out from the blanket at nap time. More pictures document the window in his bedroom, looking out to houses we’ve never stepped foot in.
I was surprised by these results. I’d expected off-focus pictures like the ones I might take. Instead, I saw photos where he missed his father, loved his brother, or wondered about what lay beyond his home.
These pictures still make me reflective about point-of-view, or POV — the person a story is told through, whether it’s first person (“I crossed the room”) or third (“Jane crossed the room”).
In the details and tone selected, exposition can describe the POV-character as much as it does setting, letting every word pull double weight. No two people will describe a room the same way. The person who notices the patterns of shadow on the carpet is not the same person who frets over dust on the windowsill. Describing mysterious, unexplored houses beyond the window reveals a different POV character than a description of the thankfully cool morning air over a quiet town.
I’m glad that, through a camera, I was able to see snapshots through my child’s view.