It was a big deal the first time I ever used our family camera. Our Swinger had cost my folks around $20 in 1965. Adjusted for inflation, that’s about $150, so I really don’t blame them for waiting until I was seven, even if it was frustrating to see things that I wanted to photograph and not to be allowed to.
Twenty-nine years later, we put a camera into Alex’s hands for the first time. He was three. We were at EPCOT and Alex was really fussy. Alex was normally a very easy-going kid, so was unusual. We asked him what was up and he indicated that he wanted a camera. He had grown up seeing us taking pictures, so he certainly knew what a camera did by then.
We had one of those disposable cameras on us, so we handed it to him. We figured that he might be able to work out how to work the shutter button and we’d have one picture taken by him as a souvenir. Alex lifted that camera to his eye and pushed the shutter button. And then he advanced the film and took another picture. You could have knocked us over with a feather.
So we bought another disposable camera for me to use (my ex had the digital camera) and continued our day. By the end of the day, we had bought him another camera, and when we went to my folks’ house the next, day, he went through a few more cameras. And he went through a few more during our side trip to Key West that week.
And even from the very first, he had a pretty good eye. My mom told him that she wanted him to take some pictures of people (my mom seemed to think that the purpose of a camera was to take pictures of people and absolutely nothing else). And it seems to me that a few pictures of family members once in a while is fine, but I’ve never been that big on taking pictures of (family member) in (location) and then (other family member) in (same location) and whatever. So Alex took a picture of my dad (whom he adores) and then my mom suggested he take a picture of his dad and me. So his dad and I posed and Alex looked into the viewfinder and then took a step back. He looked in the viewfinder again and took another step back. He did this another couple of times and then finally took the picture. When the picture came out, there were his dad and me smack in the center of the picture. And way, off to the viewer’s right was my dad. That kid, at the age of three, knew how to get the shot he wanted, and he wanted my dad in that photo.
Eventually, of course, we bought him his own camera, an inexpensive digital camera. He took pictures for another couple of years and then when he was in kindergarten or thereabouts, he stopped. When he was twelve, I think, I bought him a Black Friday special camera and then another year or so later, he got the picture-taking bug again. He has been taking pictures pretty steadily since then and has filled up, I think it’s two SD cards with pictures in that time.