Though my intent was to allow freedom, wandering, and imaginative play, I also began to find it increasingly necessary (for my own dwindling sanity) to find meaningful activities that would engage them (preferably for large chunks of time). One evening, as I beseeched the inspiration gods to help me, I was struck by an idea (I actually believe it was Joseph Cornell’s idea, and that I had read it months previously in a book, but I’d like to say it was mine). I hastily grabbed an old piece of cardboard, cut a small rectangle in the middle, covered it with packing tape so it wouldn’t get wet, and hey presto! The Insta-Beauty-Photo-Taker-Max (waterproof version) was formed.
How to Use It:
METHOD A: With a partner, decide who will be the ‘Camera’ and who will be the ‘Operator’. The ‘Camera’ holds the cardboard Photo-Taker frame in front of his face and closes his eyes. The ‘Operator’ finds something that is really beautiful that her friend hasn’t noticed,then leads her friend to the correct spot, positions him, positions his hands so the Photo-Taker will frame the beautiful thing correctly, and then taps his shoulder. The ‘Camera’ opens his eyes, sees what is in the frame, and then quickly shuts his eyes again (like a camera!). The picture is now ‘taken’ in his memory.
METHOD B: On your own, walk around slowly with the Photo-Taker frame held in front of you. Notice that when you hold it close to your face you see a whole scene, and when you hold it at arm’s length you ‘zoom’ in on a detail. Use the Photo-Taker to frame something that you think is beautiful, perhaps in an unusual way that draws attention to something interesting or previously unnoticed. Show a friend! (I had the children show their finds to the fox puppet who was our mascot, which was a big hit. The fox almost burnt out trying to respond to all the requests to ‘come see this!’)
I remember the execution of this activity to be hectic, scattered, and a bit stressful. The day was cold and damp. The kids were all over the place.
Ironically, when I look back at the photos I took of the children ‘taking photos’, I find that my own camera allowed me to come to the same conclusions I was hoping the children would come to.
I see frozen moments of beauty, a re-framing that allows me to notice how beautiful the experience actually was. In the midst of multi-tasking and chaos, the camera helped me notice the beauty of the moments.
And this is what I love about the symbolism of the Insta-Beauty-Photo-Taker-Max.
The ‘camera’ or frame helps us zoom in on life. It helps us notice. It makes us see things differently. Don't fear...it doesn't actually eliminate the ‘bad’ or the ‘ugly’ – those things are still there – but that’s no longer ALL we notice. If we zoom out, we see a bigger picture. We notice how the colour of the sky balances out the greens of the trees and that that one spot of red from the flower in the left corner stands out. If we zoom in we see the shiny trail of the slug that zigzags across the leaf on the tree we thought was dead. We see the one crocus bud where previously we had assumed there were no signs of spring. And if we move the frame, we find that shifting our perspective helps us see that things we thought were inconsequential or ugly are actually incredibly striking or interesting.
Life may not seem beautiful all the time.
But guess what?
It’s all how we look at it.