The World Next Door
Editor’s note: This assignment is specifically for parents (or legal guardians) with children interested in photography! The purpose is for you to go out and take pictures together. Each of you will have three submissions. Explore our friends in the NG kids photo community as well. Make sure to read through all of the rules before taking part in this assignment.
This is a special assignment, because it's not just all about you! While it is about exploring your photography and your willingness to engage with people through photography, it is also about exploring your relationship with your child, and your child's relationship with the world. This should be collaboration, where (quite often) you put down the camera to support them and talk to them about what they are learning. It is an opportunity to discuss human relationships, beauty, and beliefs.
When I photograph with my son, Hawkeye, (age four), it's not really about photography. That's just the artifact we take away from an interaction. Hawkeye is already a very social little dude, but I think that photographing people in this way opens him up to a lifetime of communicating with people who are very different than him.
I think many of us get locked into a comfort zone with how we see the world and who we interact with, and we do that by limiting our exposure. Photography is one way for me (and now my son) to shatter that comfort zone, to be reminded every day that I venture out with my camera that there are infinite worlds to explore—that I am not the center of the universe and that my ideas are among the many perspectives and manifestations of life that make up this world. I hope for nothing less for my son, whether it is through photography or another medium of communication. It is all really about a way of seeing and experiencing the world, and the camera is just one exercise.
Now I’d like you all to join Hawkeye and me in this exploration! Read more
Thank you for your contributions!
Update From Aaron and Hawkeye!
For those of you who got to know Aaron and Hawkeye through this assignment, we thought you might enjoy checking out their latest adventure with National Geographic Travel!
This is my last Editor's note! I want to use this note to acknowledge a few examples of parents who are really in the spirit of the assignment so that you can look to them as an example of what is working for us.
Please go see the photo sets from Jennifer Walker and her daughter Nora (age 5) awesome polaroids!
Irfan D and his daughters Maisah (14) and Moosa (10)
Dimitri Glariti and his son Michael (8), and all of the examples you see in my editor's picks.
This is not about mining your hard drive for old photos, its about going out to shoot with your children TODAY. The final selections of this are not going to look like photos of past Your Shot stories. My hope is that you as parents or guardians of children will take the spirit of this collaboration and extend it into many years of creating, communicating, and exploring with these young people.
If you are just joining us please read the editor's notes carefully before starting to submit. If you have already uploaded all your images then just keep shooting! Life is not a contest! Just because this assignment ends does not mean that you have to stop doing it!
So get out there and shoot something this weekend! Hawkeye and I cant wait to see the final submissions!
Try an Experiment
Friends, I write you this message from my heart, in hopes of clearing up any confusion about my intentions.
This assignment is about how you interact with the world much more than it is about your technical abilities or any concept you may have about what makes a photograph a “winner.”
While I appreciate and look for good aesthetics in photographs, that is only 40 percent of this assignment. The other 60 percent, what I'm looking for in your submissions, is a desire to know your fellow man/woman and to interact with them with your child. I would like, more than anything, to see you take risks. Make yourself vulnerable and reach out to a stranger. And I don’t mean reach out from 40 feet away. I want you to sit down with people you don’t know and look into their eyes. Ask them questions. Observe their life and work. Hear their stories. And then make a photograph. I want you to invest in them. And I want you to do this with your child.
Leave the safety of parent photographing child or child photographing parent, and move out into the strange and scary and beautiful world around you.
Try an experiment. Spend three, five, or even ten minutes with someone before you lift your camera. Some will not want to give you that time, and that’s OK. Getting turned down is a good sign—it means you're trying! The “yes” you finally get will be worth it, and I will see that in your photos.
Some people may be baffled by the editor’s picks. Keep in mind that they're meant to point you in the direction of where this assignment should be going. I will not look at adult photos submitted without a photo partner that is a child.
This is not just a "photo assignment." If you truly embrace the spirit of this project, the effects will go far beyond your photography. This is about a way of walking in the world. The photographs you make are just the artifacts of the relationships you build.
Don't focus on winning a contest. Focus on making relationships.
Below, listen to Aaron speak about photography. "If your heart is not in it, it's probably not worth doing."
Exploring with Your Children
I like the idea of photographing a whole small "world" that is close to home. I would like to see portraits of communities that have unique traits, a culture even, somewhere within a short drive or walk from where you live. It could be the cheer squad that practices in the gym after school, the cowboys that pass through your town for a weekend to ride the rodeo, the quilting club that your grandma is in, the guys that hang out at the taxi stand on the corner, the vendors at the farmers market, or a group of musicians that practice together in a garage down the block.
Sometimes one very special person can create a whole world around them; artists for example, like a sculptor, a painter, or even a woodworker, a musician, a gardener, or any other creator surrounded by the things they make. Show us actual portraits (get close!) as well as what these people do in their world.
One tip to start: If you have a small child (under eight) I'd recommend an instant camera. Hawkeye uses a Fuji Instax so that he can see and feel the image and share it with the people he is photographing. There is something very special about being able to hold a picture in your hand in that way. Don't focus on perfect pictures that can be printed in large format—we like the poetry that happens with the "imperfections" of instant film!
We can't wait to see what world you will share with us!
Rules and Guidelines
• You are allowed to upload up to three photos for yourself and three photos for your child.
• Make sure that you indicate who took each photo below the caption. For example: “Photo by me” or “Photo by Hawkeye, age 4”
• The photos do not need to be taken at the same exact time, but should be of the same "world" or community that you are exploring together.
We would like for you to upload a photo of you and your child as your profile picture for the duration of the assignment. This is not required, but if your photo makes it to the final edit we may ask you to email us one. The final story will include photos from children and adults, but if your child’s photo is selected, that does not necessarily mean yours will be—and vice versa.
Most important, we want you to have FUN! This assignment is about learning from each other, learning about each other, and learning about the world around you through photography.
The idea for this assignment came from our Kids My Shot photo community! Children can also participate by using #worldnextdoor on My Shot. Read more about that on their site, and check out some of their amazing photos on the Your Shot blog.
UPDATE: We hear you loud and clear and are so excited to know that so many of our members have kids they would like to shoot with. We will be allowing grandparents, aunts and uncles, and other adults with a child to participate in the assignment if you have explicit permission from the child's parent or legal guardian. If the child's photo is selected in the final edit, we will be asking for explicit written permission from the child's parent.