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If a 3-year-old can do it…

When it comes to photography, all that really matters is your eyes and how they view the world…

Like me, you probably haven’t heard of the photographer Ruby Ellenby. Ruby had her first photography exhibition a few weeks ago at Moshi Moshi restaurant in San Francisco.

The 22 images on display had a charming, everyday simplicity about them – a shot of leaves on the floor, a shaky, abstract image of branches against a pale winter sky – and shot from low angles. Entirely fitting, given Ruby is just three years old.

The story was covered in the San Francisco Chronicle back in March and recently made national TV.

While reading through these posts I noticed many of the comments were negative. A lot of photographers and so called ‘art lovers’ seem to have taken serious offense that a gallery would dedicate space to images taken by a three year old. People have dissed Ruby’s photography skills, and even suggested the parents are using their contacts to draw attention to their own work.

I think these people are missing the point. While I agree that the images aren’t creatively astounding or worthy of an exhibition in any ‘professional’ sense, I don’t think that’s what the parents, child or restaurant are trying to say.

To my mind the exhibition says more about the process of taking photographs than the photographs themselves. It shows just how accessible and simple photography can be. How it’s not about a particular brand of camera or expensive lenses, the subtleties of exposure or achieving the correct depth of field — but about exploration and curiosity.

Ruby’s photos may not be technically perfect or aesthetically mind-blowing, but by putting them on public display they help remind us of what photography fundamentally is: an individual record of our attempts to understand and view the world around us.

Community Connection

What do you think about Ruby’s photos?
Are these critics just jealous?
How does it change the way one’s work is perceived once it’s given an exhibition?

Please share your thoughts below.


About The Author

Paul Sullivan

Paul Sullivan is a freelance writer, author, editor and photographer covering music, travel and culture. His writing and photography work has been published in The Guardian, Sunday Times Travel, National Geographic UK, Matador Network, Wax Poetics, XLR8R and more, and he has scribed/snapped several guidebooks for Time Out, HG2, Rough Guide, Cool Camping and others. He currently lives in Berlin, where he runs the sustainable travel portal Slow Travel Berlin. Check out his photography website, follow him on Twitter or join hisFacebook photography page.

  • Lola

    Well said, bro! Well said.

  • Christian

    Well said indeed. The negative comments on that story are so petty. It’s like watching a child play Chopin and saying that she’s off tempo. That’s not the point, even when adults do it. From the comments, “…to me it’s just a kid playing with a camera.” Isn’t that what all of us are?

  • joshywashington

    i believe these critics, or “real artists” are terrified that their own art may be denigrated by the inclusion of a 3 year old.

    I think it is a beautiful lesson. Suffer the little children.

  • Alouise

    Art is subjective. Someone can paint a red dot on a canvas and it’s just as much art as these photos that Ruby has taken. I don’t understand why someone would think otherwise. But then again art often creates controversy. If she’s enjoying what she does she should keep working on her photography. Who knows where she’ll be in 5 or 10 years with practice?

  • TimR

    Totally agree with your process point. Learning to be more visually creative is “merely” a matter of learning how to see like a child sees. “Childlike,” not “childish” as one drawing teacher of mine used to say. Sounds so easy. But for most people it’s actually near impossible after years and years and years of left brain thinking. Hopefully Ruby won’t suffer a fate like that when she “grows up.”

  • Rodrigo

    Loved your definition of photography, mate!

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