The Digital Camera as an Opening for Communication with Children, Self and Others – Toby’s Tulips

by Sheila Finkelstein on April 18, 2010

tulip photograph by 8 year old Toby Garver

For today’s post I am delighted to present the photography of 8-year old Toby Garver, breaking from my tradition of featuring solely my photography, or my deceased husband Sam Finkelstein’s wonderful black and white photography,  in Picture to Ponder and on my blogs.

Close to two years ago Julie Gabrielli, Toby’s mother, and I met in a teleclass. A friendship developed and at one point about a year and a half ago she mentioned her son sitting in her lap discussing his interpretation of one of my Picture to Ponder photos. I had an immediate visualization of the scene and found that picturing the love between mother and child, and the freedom of communication between them, instantly warmed my heart.  I’ve had a “soft spot” for Toby (and Julie) ever since.

Then a year ago, when Julie was a participant in one of my Through and From the Lens Point and Shoot Photo courses, I started hearing more about Toby. In the course, Julie quickly took on one of my main recommendations, “Have your camera with you at all times.”  As we discussed her experiences during the four weeks of the class, she very often mentioned Toby’s going with her and wanting to use the camera. She usually did hand it over and allow to him to use it.  Again, the hand on my appreciation meter went way up and added warmth filled my being.

Responding to a recent one-question survey of Picture to Ponder subscribers, Julie wrote, “I love the practice of taking my camera out for a walk. I’m always delighted and surprised by the inspirations, ideas, and answers that come .”  Then, yesterday she sent me a “Spring” note with the top tulips photo attached.

She wrote, “Went on a walk w/ Toby, our dog, and the camera the other day. I just kept thinking of you, b/c he took the camera from me most of the time and took some great photos!” This gave me a clue that the photo attached was one of Toby’s. I thought the photo so striking and well-composed, especially for an eight-year old,  that I wrote to make sure it was.  “If so,” I asked for permission to publish it.

This morning I was delighted to receive another email from Julie stating:
“Toby is looking at his pictures w/ me and wanted to send a few more to you! I forgot to mention before. . . .As he was taking the pictures, he kept saying, ‘This is just like a painting!’

It’s really cool that we both like the same ones — and often had immediate reactions to the ones we liked the best. Somehow we just ‘knew.'”

It is my privilege to be allowed to share with you here my selection from the nine new ones sent in that email.

Titled “Funky Tulip” by Julie and Toby, the above certainly looks like a painting. I’m wondering if some of the painter-like quality in the photo resulted from Toby’s thoughts being projected onto them.

This next photo gives us the overall feel of a piece of the “landscape” that Toby saw.

I love the way Toby went right into the flower above and how he used the space. It has me wondering if he knows about, and used, the Macro setting on the camera.

Although compositionally, we might look right past the last photo, I’ve included it here because, for me, it exudes drama and mystery and a perfect photo/scene to open up creative dialogue. There appear to be so many stories that could be created from this one.

“Is the yellow tulip calling out to the red?  What might it be saying?  Has the red tulip purposefully turned its ‘back’ on the yellow, or is it simply in a different world?”

Parent and child could make up a combined story, or the parent, or teacher, might simply encourage the child to “spin” a story.

And, if you are an adult, with no child available, you could play with your own inner child, or look at the imaginary questions that come up for you, as mine did for me above. Then explore where in your life you might be experiencing analogous situations.

As I finish here with my initial intent to encourage using photography for opening up and expanding parent/child or general communication, I see I’ve come full circle.  Once again queries surfaced as access to a greater understanding of ourselves.

I invite you to share your experience of this post in the comment section below.  You can also check out Julie’s professional work on her Go for Change blog.  A professional architect, she is passionately committed to Greening our Environment and using many of these principles in effectively forwarding business growth and transformation.

Should you be intrigued and wish to experience expanding your own “seeing” and communication through the use of your camera, I will be opening another Through and From the Lens Course next month.  See COURSE for more information and to add yourself to the keep-me-informed list.

Lastly, you can see the black and white photography of Sam Finkelstein on b&w photography and you can weekly experience Photography and Self-Reflecting Queries in your inbox by subscribing to Picture to Ponder through the link on the right or the RSS feed.

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Morgine April 18, 2010 at 9:29 pm

I LOVE how “natural” children are and how their pure “innocence” can be expressed even here in photography. We can only wonder what Toby was thinking or experiencing when he took these amazing, beautiful photos! It is almost as if there is a dialogue going on between Toby and the flowers … like “come take a picture of me over here!!!” :). I love the softness and brightness and love I feel from the photos. Perhaps because communicating with all kinds of life forms is my business and natural way of being these days. Learning more and more about making awe and wonder my best friends every moment! Thanks Sheila for your inspiring classes and Toby for your beautiful reminders!!
Hugs of love and beauty, Morgine


Sheila Finkelstein April 19, 2010 at 3:08 pm

Beautiful, Morgine. Thank you.


Julie April 19, 2010 at 3:09 am

Dear Morgine,
I love your comment that the flowers were beckoning! It was such an ordinary moment, and also transcendent — Toby was just compelled to take those pictures. Just because we can’t see or hear it, doesn’t mean that communication isn’t going on! Especially children — if they can keep using their “original equipment” — they get all sorts of messages that we tend to overlook.


Sheila Finkelstein April 19, 2010 at 3:10 pm

I love what you say here, Julie. Thank you for sharing yourself in this way and for sharing Toby with us all. And, I think I forgot to thank Toby in my post itself. Please do extend my love and deepest appreciation to him.


Terrill Welch April 19, 2010 at 1:51 pm

Sheila thank you for breaking from your tradition and sharing Toby’s tulip photos with us. What a treat! There is a spontaneity and freedom of form and movement in Toby’s work that translates uniquely as his frame of reference. It lets me know that I might be able to dance with the beauty of a tulip too!


Sheila Finkelstein April 19, 2010 at 3:08 pm

Terrill, thank you so much for responding to my Tweet invitation to check out this post. What a beautifully poetic response!


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