In Their Eyes

I handed a six year old my camera. Perhaps an experiment of art, mostly a desire to see what she’d find. Or perhaps a stupid decision, that might only lead to a pile of dirt covered plastic pieces (don’t worry, my camera is still in one piece!) Set loose on the farm with the instructions of, “Go take some pictures! Of people farming or playing! Or of flowers or plants!” I was actually surprised by the initial reaction to take pictures of me, then of siblings, then of playmates, some other interns. It took a lot of pushing to change her tune, to get her moving around to find new subjects. The camera was passed around to four sets of ten tiny dirty fingernails, caked with earth from dirt piles and garden plots. What would they find?
They found characters. When their own children were taking their pictures, families smiled brighter, acted sillier. They weren’t afraid to make fools of themselves, whether they were 3 or 40, if they knew the kid behind the camera. When I asked to take a few pictures of the kids with their parents, or when I came to stand behind the kids and watch as they took pictures, attitudes changed.
Why? I don’t know. I wish they wouldn’t. I like to think I’m a harmless college kid, just here to have fun alongside them. To learn and to work with them. But, I know that’s not how they see it. I know that’s not the way society has lined us up. For some reason, I’ll never understand, me a 20 year old kid with no life experience, has somehow been placed higher on the totem pole than their years of toil, passion, and risks. Its that stinky privilege thing creeping in again. I wish there was a way, I could get rid of it. That I could immediately be a part of their community, their families. Joking, laughing. I don’t want them to think they have to try and speak English when I’m around. I don’t want them to act serious or cautious. Their laughs and smiles. Their truths and stories. That’s what I’m here for. But, how can I make that known? Maybe it won’t happen as this summer sprints to a close, but when I go off, to see more of the world. How do I break down walls and hierarchies, I never asked to be built up? How do I stop them from being built, in the first place? I don’t know.
But I’ll keep going. And for now, I’ll watch the art being made from a distance. So I don’t hinder any more grins or giggles.
Alyce Norcross ’17