Checking In and a Few Random Thoughts

I temporarily dropped into the life of a 32 year old, being the primary caretaker of a 2 and 5 year old. That is why you haven't heard from me as of late. I have a deep appreciation for artists that are able to keep the creative muses alive as they are raising their families...not an easy task.

My granddaughter turned 5 this past week and has been very interested in cameras. I decided that this was the opportune time to introduce her to photography. There was a lot of excitement on my part when I thought of the gift of a first camera.

After doing some research, I decided, along with her mother, that the Fisher Price "Tough Kid" Digital camera would be the best choice. I was fortunate enough to be with my granddaughter for her birthday, so was able to get a first hand look at the gift. After an hour of watching her with the camera, I was horrified. This was NOT the camera experience I had expected. There were many bells and whistles on this particular camera. As I watched her handle it I realized that I had essentially given her an electronic toy that fostered and demanded her attention similar to a video game.

Happily, the batteries went dead after a few hours. I slipped the camera into my bag and suggested to my granddaughter that this was not the right camera for her and that I would replace it with the real thing. I have decided to purchase an inexpensive "real" digital camera for her...but even that, I realize, has its limitations.

This experience made me realize how different photography is now, with the advent of the digital camera. I long for her to have the excitement of the wet darkroom experience when the print begins to appear in the developing tray, when one struggled to compose a photograph and worked for hours to create a print that would "sing." It still takes time and effort to create something extraordinary with a camera, be it digital or film, but the easy access/quick grabbing of visuals has really changed the entire playing field of photography.

On another note, I have spent the last 2 weeks traveling to see loved ones, from the west coast to the east coast and back home again, with several graduations and birthdays in between. It has been a marvelous two weeks, and the best birthday gift I could have ever given to myself.

what follows are a few emails I received in response to this post...

Hello Jane -

I had to smile when reading your latest post about your granddaughter and her new camera.  Someone once gave my son a camera with a monkey on it.  While he had no interest in the camera, he fully expected the monkey to do tricks.  When my kids were five and seven, they became curious about what I do in the darkroom (I realized early on as a parent that I would have to integrate my children into my creative life – it was either that or close down the darkroom for several years).  The three of us made two pinhole cameras together – one for 4x5 paper and one for 11x14.  It was a week-long project – planning, measuring, waiting for superglue to dry - which ended with a little photo series which they got to develop and print.  It was magical to watch their faces as the images developed.  They were so excited.  Even now, five years later, the images are still some of my personal favorites and I am always touched when I hear my kids explain to their friends what “real” photography is all about.  We are preparing for a big move to New York next month but once we get situated, I plan to use the cameras again with the kids to inaugurate my new darkroom.  

Best – Ellen O’Connell

Ellen O'Connell ~ Jules and Esther

Ellen O'Connell ~ Jules and Esther


One of the fondest memories of raising my daughter was making a camera out of a piece of brass shim stock, black paint and an oatmeal box. Not sure she was as excited as I was when we developed the sheet of film. But there was even a lesson in that. I still have that thing somewhere.