The Talk. Photography

The following images are the result of a photographic collaboration between my three year old son and myself. Miles selects a curated edit of his own photographs; then in response, I select photographs of my own from my own library. The back and forth discussion of his photographs informs my decisions. I want to know him better through his photographs. And, in asking him questions, I hope I am also helping him learn the language of photographs. The same way a baseball loving father might play catch with his son, I’m sitting down with photographs to enjoy what he and I make of photography. It’s something I hope nurtures many conversations over our lifetime together. As always, his fulfillment is my primary goal, so as long as he wants to share with me, I’m happy to continue.

This project we’ve been working on together, I’ve found, often reveals (sometimes comically) how complicated we make enjoyable things like making photographs. In attempting to better understand it and validate/valorize what we do, do we theorize beyond reason? My son makes photographs of things “he likes” to remember them, to investigate them visually, and out of an impulse that simply highlights their importance in his life. While looking at an off-kilter photograph he has picked out of his brother and the legs of his mother standing in the middle of a dusty trail, I ask him, “why did you pick this photo?” His response is sweet and simple. “Because (it has) momma! I love momma. I look at this one while I fall asleep.” Regardless of how well-executed the photograph is, its ability to activate memory is what he gravitates toward. The same is true for most of us as well, I believe.

While this project gives me an opportunity to reexamine my own photographs and create new contexts for interpretation with my son, it is a humbling reminder to not take things so seriously all the time. Theory and philosophy have their places, to be sure, but so does remembering why we all got started making and looking at photographs in the first place.

Shawn S. Barker

About Shawn S. Barker

A product of the American West, Shawn received his BFA in visual communications (graphic design) from Weber State University in 2012. Raised in the shadows of the beautiful peaks in Northern Utah by a geologist father, Shawn learned a love for the outdoors and the natural forces that surround us. He is passionate about great storytelling, thought-provoking art, and his family. Shawn and his wife, Michelle, reside in Scottsdale, AZ with two man-cubs and a half-whippet dog named Olive. He is currently an MFA candidate at Arizona State University with an emphasis in photography.


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