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.
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.
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.
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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.