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Through the lenses of babes

Originally posted on the InterAction blog, 9/2/11.

I’m sure you’re familiar with the term “Out of the mouths of babes.” A lot of the things that adults either ignore or talk around, kids will zero right in on and ask about outright. This made a photo essay I saw on The Guardian’s blog this week particularly intriguing. It was about a program called Fotokids, founded by former war photographer Nancy McGirr, that puts cameras in the hands of kids.

She first gave cameras to half a dozen kids in 1991, and the idea has grown into an educational program over the last 20 years. Reminiscing about meeting those first participants, McGirr writes, “The thought occurred to me: if they had the camera, what would they see through that lens?” The photos that I’ve seen capture everyday life—love, joy, tragedy—in a simple, candid way.

I have to research photos to go with news pieces on a regular basis, and most that I find don’t have the honesty that these do. My frustration with the photos I come across is that so many seem staged. You know they’re taken by a professional photographer who’s going for maximum drama, or by a professional aid worker who’s struggling to either convince the viewer how much help is needed or to prove to the viewer that their program has been helping. When I look at many of those, I know there’s a lot that’s left outside the frame. What strikes me about the Fotokids project is how much I feel the frame doesn’t matter, because what’s going on is what’s actually depicted.

Maybe I’m jaded. But looking at these photos was like getting a refreshingly fuller perspective on the places where InterAction’s members work, and one that I was glad to get.

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