5 frames by an almost 3 year old – By Holly Gilman

My eldest turned 3 in September. A few months before, I had finally picked up my film cameras again after having not shot very much at all since he was born, and my son’s interest was piqued.

He was desperate to have a go but I have a few cameras that I really didn’t want him to touch. He may be advanced for his age but I’m still not going to hand him my Pentacon Six! However, I have put aside a camera each for him and his brother. They are both point & shoot film cameras which belonged originally to their great grandmother and great grandfather. I pulled out the Nikon RF2 and loaded it with Kodak Gold and watched as my son went through the 24 exposures in just a few minutes. The excitement and joy was clear, his face a picture in itself.

He has shot 5 rolls to date and I find the whole process fascinating. Being present whilst he takes pictures is almost like performance art. My son has always been the type to chat to any stranger in the street and this was no different, he catches people off-guard, taking photos and chatting to them about his new camera; people visibly soften despite their worries about getting too close, what with Covid-19 and all. He rushes around, excited to take his next shot, which is just as likely to be part of a window frame as it is to be of my chin and it’s contagious. It makes me laugh out loud to watch him.

The energy and excitement show in his images too. The quick compositions scream energy from the frame, you can imagine a tiny child running, stopping, snapping and then running on again. I’d love to share some of his colour work one day, but I’m still working on digitising colour negatives. So for now I thought I would share 5 frames of me, shot on Ilford HP5.

Nikon FM
Me and our dog
Nikon FM
Drinking tea
Nikon FM
With my youngest
Nikon RF2
Nikon RF2

It’s rare for me to be the subject of a photograph, I am usually on the other side of the camera. Plus, photos that have been taken of me in the last 3 years do not bring me joy. Becoming a mother has changed my body beyond recognition and I’m still trying to build up the strength that I had before. It so often now feels like I’m looking at a photograph of a stranger and not of myself. But there is something about these images, I recognise myself here.

What does this say about the uninhibited way he makes images?

What does it say about a subject’s relationship to their photographer, and how that affects the outcome?

I find the creative process and the theory of photography fascinating. If you’re interested in more of my musings you can follow my learning log or Instagram.

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22 thoughts on “5 frames by an almost 3 year old – By Holly Gilman”

  1. That last one is really rather good.

    I’m interested by the viewpoints. Normally when a small person takes a photograph, they are looking up, but your son seems to have generally chosen to take a viewpoint above you.

    I recently put a Dynax 5 into the hands of my granddaughters (5 and 11) there tended to be a fair amount of freaking the cats out by trying to take photos of them from far too close for their comfort, but the 5 year old was a picture as she played photographer. She would have got on great in teh 60s as there were lots of wonky angles and tightly closed non-viefinder eyes. Must check out f her father had been showing her ‘Blow-up’ on youtube…

  2. I love these photos, fantastic article. This is the kind of article I like, personal, about people, about a moment of time. I personally believe that the only photos you go back and look at are ones of your friends and family.

  3. The photo with your youngest… My son looked JUST like him at that age. It’s kind of freaky. I have a photo of him at that age from the same angle and making the same expression.
    Loved the article, and it’s a reminder I should get my kids more involved in photography. My son is 13 now and it would be fun to see what he shoots

  4. Anthony Romain Jr.

    This is was by far one of the better articles, I’ve read here! Your child’s interest in photography and how you encourage that is really beautiful and inspiring. I got started with photography by myself, my family didn’t care much haha, but someday I hope to pass on my photos and camera collection when I become a father, grandfather, (hopefully) great grandfather. Reading your article has made me excited looking forward to that albeit I have many many more years until then haha.

    Thank you for sharing!!!

  5. Ha, ha, ha! Loved this! Much better photographs than the blurry ones of my brother on his tricycle I took at age six. I think you have a budding photog there!

  6. We did the same with our 3 year old (32 years ago!) Got her a couple of disposable 35mm cameras w/b&w film. Processed in my home darkroom. Lots of ‘ground effects,’ finger, nostrils, etc. By 5 she was my darkroom assistant (putting multigrade filters in order/counting down the time on the GraLab timer. She was paid .50 cents per session (about 10 minutes for her.) It didn’t stick. She’s now a successful artist/illustrator/art professor in Boston. You never know where things lead to. Just keep them engaged and curious about the world they live in. Hefty doses of unconditional love and snacks are also required.
    I’m sorry to hear you’re dealing with post birth body & health issues. But look at what you brought into the world! You and your partner have created a unique family unit. Never seen before, never to be duplicated anywhere! People you never knew existed now interact with you as we follow your photo adventures. Not bad Holly, not bad.
    You and your family stay healthy!
    Dan (flickr.com/photos/dcastelli9574/)

  7. Catch ’em young, ‘eh Holly! I started far, far too late at aged 10 with a Conway 120 box camera. This is what photography is all about because these images will be priceless in decades to come. I particularly liked the cropped head shots ( a’la David Bailey). Great post – smiled throughout!

  8. This was awesome. I hope my daughters show an interest in photography in the coming years, even if it’s just an occasional hobby.
    What really struck me was you noting that your body had changed and that you are rarely in photos. My wife is struggling with this daily (our newest was born in June), and it’s very nice to know that it’s not an uncommon thing. Thank you for this article!

    1. Apologies for how long it’s taken me to reply, I only got a notification about this comment today. It’s definitely not unusual for women to go through this, but knowing that doesn’t make it easier – what makes it easier is a partner that understands the identity crisis and supports them through it. Glad the article spoke to you!

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