Dear Mother of the newest young photographer;
I saw you and your young son today as I was walking through one of those stores that sells pretty much everything you could ever need. Our paths repeatedly crossed as we filled shopping carts full of groceries. You had already done some shopping. What I picked up from the passing glimpses of the conversation between you and your son that shopping was so he could choose his birthday surprise. I'm guessing he was somewhere between 10 or 12 years old.
It seems that in the previous months you had listened and heard him tell you how he wanted to be a photographer when he grows up, and for his birthday, you had surprised him by taking him to pick out his very first camera. A small point and shoot that I imagine had a price tag of somewhere around $15.
This glimpse into your conversation peaked my interested as I was 10 years old when I told my mother I wanted to be a photographer; she however was not so supportive of that idea. But you were determined to help your little boy get a taste of that dream.
As we continued on our similar path through the aisles of paper plates, cereal boxes, pickle jars, and frozen pizzas I was privileged to capture more glimpses into your lives as the conversation continued between the two of you.
He was happily hugging the box with his newest prized possession inside and asking all kinds of questions and making all kinds of plans. And you, Mother of the newest young photographer, had all the answers and all the encouragement a kid could ask for.
He asked you if this meant that he was now a real pro photographer and your answer was that as soon as he started taking pictures he would be a photographer. You then told him that to be a pro photographer he would have to work hard, learn lots, and practice lots.
He seemed good with that answer as I got the next glimpse while our paths crossed near the big bags of potatoes. I heard him telling you that he knew how to work hard because he helped to take care of Grandma's garden last summer and he could learn lots because he like to read. I couldn't hear his plans for practicing but as I looked up while I grabbed the packages of ground beef I could see the excitement in his body langue.
As you passed again I heard plans to visit the library and find all the photography books that they had and the excitement was very clear in his voice. You were telling him how you would help him search the internet for lessons, tips, and ideas. You explained to him how he was going to have to read the owners manual; probably more than once.
Our paths crossed again near the bags of shredded cheeses, bricks of cream cheese, and cartons of eggs. I caught another glimpse into your conversation then and it had turned to someday. How someday he would need to save his own money to buy his next camera. How someday that next camera would be more complicated. How someday he would need to learn programs like Photoshop. How someday he would be old enough to share pictures on Facebook.
We crossed paths for the last time as we stood in side by side checkout lines waiting for our turn to finally leave the store and his turn to finally begin a new chapter in his life as the newest young photographer. I heard him tell the cashier how he was going to be famous and how he was going to take pictures of mountains, oceans, tigers, and even presidents. I heard him tell her that he didn't need a bag he would just carry his box out like it was. I heard him tell her that he was going to open it as soon as they got in the car. I also heard you tell him to tell the cashier thank you, I also heard you remind him that he needed to tell Grandma thank you for the birthday money, and I also heard you remind him that he had lots to learn and not to brag too much.
I just wanted to let you know that I for one think you are doing an amazing job with your little man. You seemed to have all the right answers to encourage him but to also let him know it was not going to be easy.
I also wanted to encourage you to help him to reach out to professional photographers in your town, and follow professionals online. Even help him to post questions in photography forums and learn from the years of experience that they have. You will find some that wont' give him the time of day but you will find others that will love to help him. Shoot; have him send me a message. I'd be happy to answer all the questions I can!
I have often wondered where I'd be today if I had begun this adventure when I was 10 instead of having to wait until many many years later. He is going to have so much time to learn and grow as a photographer. I do hope he finds that he enjoys it as much as it looks like he is going to and that he sticks with it over the years to come.
Who knows you just might have the next Annie Leibovitz, Steve McCurry, Robert Frank, or Margaret Bourke-White on your hands.
Keep up the good work Mother of the next professional photographer to take the world by storm. I'm sure in a few years everyone is going to get a glimpse into your little man's life as they cross paths with him in a famous art gallery or online as he blogs about his adventurous adventures.
Stock up on those picture frames; you're going to need them!