Saturday, November 08, 2008

Stuck on you

"Four-year-old friends, Dustin Piety (left) of Silverspring, and Ayomide Idowu of Gaithersburg, share a laugh in space suits as they learn about weightlessness and gravity on a velcro wall during Goddard's LaunchFest at Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland on Saturday. The event also featured tours of the center, model rocket launches, moonbounces, spacey story-time, and space robots."

I always ask older photojournalists if photographing children years ago was any different from nowadays and I usually get the same answer: Yes.

For years, I've never felt completely safe shooting images of children. Whether it's for a feature, a story or an typical event. There is just something inside my head that makes me feel like I am being viewed as a pedophile.

Contrary to what I think, more than half of the time my actions are well received by parents once they realize who I am and what I taking their child's picture for.

Sure there have been some occasions where parents either don't believe I am shooting for a newspaper (read: once) or they don't feel their child needs to be placed in the newspaper (read: many times) or they simple won't release the child's full name (read: more than I'd like).

Maybe it's my approach when I end up in one of the above scenarios. I've always have been a shoot first, ask questions later type of photographer. No matter what the circumstance, I am going to watch the scene unfold in front of me, capture it, then chase down whomever I need to get the proper identification to accompany my images.

I often think that maybe if I asked who the child belonged to, then shot it, it would make it easier for me, but that's just not what type of shooter I am. Not to mention it would ruin the moment at hand.

Sometimes I'll simply shoot a child (mostly during a small event) and then find out who their parents are. Then I can shoot them with ease knowing that if I stumbled across them again at the event I already have their name and won't feel awkward.

This sort of happen at the NASA Goddard Space Day event. I simply needed to make a couple "cute kid" features for the article. There wasn't much there that screamed cute children and outer space aside from a large moonbounce shaped like the space shuttle.

So I worked it and finally made a frame I liked. However, I wasn't thrilled with it and decided to get the kid's name anyways. His father was receptive and really glad someone was capturing the event positively with children.

I walked away and for a lack of better words, stalked some more children. That sounds so horribly and awfully wrong.

At this point, I was frustrated and bored. So I followed one of the best tips I ever got: "If you're feeling bored, shoot why you're feeling that way."

This got my creative juices flowing again and I started shooting with a longer lens to see the event differently. I got some stuff I really liked and started heading toward my car.

Then the moment I was waiting for unfolded in front of my eyes. From a distance I could see the same children laughing, smiling and, well, sticking to a wall.

I made some frames and when I chimped I realized it was the same child from before. Granted he wasn't the only one in my frame, it made me not to hesitant to approach them for the other child's name.

While this ended up being my favorite image from the small event, it never saw day light as a juxtaposition image I had with a child, a telescope and a giant solar system poster took the ink.

I guess until I over come my personal endeavor of feeling, but not really being, a pedophile with a camera, it will only get worst the older I get. Until I get over it, I'll continue to do what I do because it seems to work just fine.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I always feel the same way, Patrick. In regards to shooting children, I hate it. Period. I always cringed when an assignment came down the pipe for shooting something that involved kids.

I don't think it's anything in me or us, but rather society in general. A man with a camera pointed at children is one of the most pejorative images for the world today.

You, however, have more cohonies than I do. I still make sure to find the parent/guardian first and ask for permission (or at least motion to them with my press badge) and then try to find the shot. I know this is not the way to do it but I cannot help it when it comes to kids.

On the other hand, the notion of shooting the reason why you are board is amazing. I thank you for it, and ask that you thank the person who told you.

Anyway, Cheers!
-isaac viel

Friday, November 07, 2008 10:37:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well, it could be worse for you:

As far as I heard in the UK not even parents are allowed to do photos at youth sports events.

And shootings kids in new zealand in public require special permits but I couldn't verify that.

Well, interesting standpoint on paranoid parenting:

Sunday, November 09, 2008 7:24:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think you really captured the "cute kids" look you needed to get for this picture because it made me smile instantly when I saw those two boys, and their face expression said it all. Really good job. I love it!

Sunday, November 09, 2008 9:31:00 AM  

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