My First Guest Photographer: My Teenage Grandson

24 January 2013


Part One: Rust Series

1. Rust Series, iPhone 4, March 2012; © Cole Bedford, 2013

1. Rust and Leaves, Rust Series, iPhone 4, March 2012; © Cole Bedford, 2013

2. Bicycle, iPhone 4, March 2012; © Cole Bedford, 2013

2. Bicycle, Rust Series, iPhone 4, March 2012; © Cole Bedford, 2013

3. Hydrant, Rust Series, iPhone 4, April 2012; © Cole Bedford, 2013

3. Hydrant, Rust Series, iPhone 4, April 2012; © Cole Bedford, 2013

4. Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco, iPhone 4, June 2012; © Cole Bedford, 2013

4. Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco, Rust Series, iPhone 4, June 2012; © Cole Bedford, 2013

II. Black-and-White Photographs

5. Water Fountain, Longwood Gardens, iPhone 4, May 2012; © Cole Bedford, 2013

5. Water Fountain, Longwood Gardens, iPhone 4, May 2012; © Cole Bedford, 2013

6. Butterfly, iPhone 4, August 2012; © Cole Bedford, 2013

6. Butterfly, iPhone 4, August 2012; © Cole Bedford, 2013

III. Polaroids

7. Clouds and Trees, Polaroid, October 2012; © Cole Bedford, 2013

7. Clouds and Trees, Polaroid, October 2012; © Cole Bedford, 2013

8. Bark, Polaroid, November 2012; © Cole Bedford, 2013

8. Bark, Polaroid, November 2012; © Cole Bedford, 2013

9. Label on Bicycle Rack, Polaroid, November 2012; © Cole Bedford, 2013

9. Label on Bicycle Rack, Polaroid, November 2012; © Cole Bedford, 2013

Let us know which you prefer and why.


In the twenty-first century it is not improbable to have a teenager introduce an adult to a technological innovation, skill or technique. So I should not be surprised or overwhelmed  that it happened to me. It’s simply part of our digital culture, part of our day-to-day meanderings.

A year and a half ago it happened to me with a steady flurry. My initial lessons and encouragement pushed me to shop at the Verizon store, where I found myself in awe of my own bold step: purchasing an iPhone 4s. But it took months of indecision and stewing.

What inspired this leap–and it was a leap–were my grandchildren. While they spent time thumbing their own iPhones and snapping photographs, they transformed the way that I viewed these devices. Mainly, I was not prepared for the quality of the images produced.

Apparently, iPhones and other Smartphones as part of the digital toolbox of photographers (of all talents) was really, really old news. I was just catching the spin.

Prior to this discovery I was taking my grandchildren on excursions that eased into photo shoots. They both were intrigued and longing to use my Nikon DSLR, and I complied. After my acquisition of the iPhone it became easier to share my Nikon. We juggled back-and-forth between these technologies.

The camera gives and we receive in return. Over time my grandson became immersed in the magic of the camera’s lens. He became one with the possibilities, having an immediate bond with the invention that changed art, art history and people’s historic perspective of events and time.

My grandson has an innate ability to call upon an inner periscope—an intuitive lens that seeks and finds the seen, unseen and unusual. While I’ve given him some tips about technique, shared information about photographers, gone on numerous photo shoots, and bought him books about photographers and photography, he sees in the way that art critic and philosopher John Berger wants us to see the world: details, nuances and the collective whole. We are observers and voyeurs of nature and human nature. Also we are storytellers, visually recording what we envision and witness.

During December 2011 we ventured into parklands that led to his fascination for the oxidation of metals: rust.  Since that momentous occasion, we have shared the exhilaration of photo shoots in various locations from abandoned buildings to horticultural centers to urban landscapes to our college campus to the West Coast…

He began a journey that continues today, discovering a marvelous yet unusual quality in subjects that seems antithetical to one’s sensibilities. So I knighted some of his images “The Rust Series.”

Each time that we enter a photo shoot, there is a swelling of my heart. He is so comfortable and relaxed with the camera as an instrument of his creative lens that it is readily apparent every time. Truly, he’s a natural. While his iPhone will do, he is enamored and clearly attached to my Nikon DSLR. I’m ready to solve his longing and will pass on my first Nikon DSLR to him SOON.

Cole, my grandson, White Clay Creek, November 2012; © Sally W. Donatello and Lens and Pens by Sally, 2013

Cole, my grandson, White Clay Creek, November 2012; © Sally W. Donatello and Lens and Pens by Sally, 2013

As a richly visual subject rust grabbed his attention. The weathering gives object-after-object layers, cracks, dips, holes, colorations, discolorations, and mystery. All these unique characteristics and subtleties are found in his photographs. He has redefined beauty through a most unlikely theme. He takes raw materials that most would discount, and collapses their facade to become aesthetically pleasing to the viewer’s eye.

So I decided that he makes a terrific first Guest Photographer. In the Lens section are nine of his photographs, divided into three parts: The Rust Series, Black-and-White Photographs and Polaroids. As he builds a portfolio, you can see his artistic talents flourishing.

Still, there is more to tell. In June I took my grandchildren to San Francisco. As I planned that holiday, I realized that I did not want to be laden with photographic equipment. That was another reason to buy the iPhone. With my grandchildren’s and friends prodding me, I made the plunge, which turned out to be a sound and worthy decision.

During that West Coast adventure the iPhone tossed me into the arena of  iPhoneography–a journey into mobile documentation and another phase of digital photography. While we all used my Nikon, the iPhone was indispensable and remarkable as a narrator of the golden city that stole our hearts.

Now many of my posts include photographs taken with my 4s. It has become an essential apparatus for its portability and dependability. It has become my sidekick on daily walks.  The 4s has been there when I needed it, easily keeping me company and helping me record a spontaneous moment of observation.

As a blogger I have noticed more and more photographers using iPhones. Some even use it as their primary instrument.

iPhoneography is bursting its seams. I think it needs a separate Internet for the explosion and profusion of users as well as images taken, seen, shared, and stored. The volume of photographs shot on any given day would be astounding to calculate. I cannot even guess numbers.

Over the last few months I have been chatting with two other photographers about beginning an iPhoneography challenge. While there are many platforms of social media for posting work, we thought a specific challenge was needed.

Please join us on February 04, and help us launch another forum for iPhoneographers to spread their work. Here’s our logo:

Inspiration comes from the expected and unexpected experiences and people in our lives. But I never thought that my grandson would influence the direction of my photography. Today’s post is my thank-you note to him–a way to honor his talent and the way that he inspires me.

I also have to thank my teenage granddaughter who in her own way is beginning to understand the world that the camera’s lens can open for her. She acts as my technical assistant, helping me navigate the iPhone’s digital girth.

They are responsible for the spark that lit the idea for the challenge. I raise my iPhone to them, and salute the future of digital photography. That notion awakens my imagination to ponder innovations that are on the horizon–innovations that are unfathomable but sure to burst through the avenues of cyberspace.

Still, I am astounded that my teenage grandson can create such painterly photographs. And he does it with little editing and lots of inner drive to record how he sees the world frame-by-frame.

Note: As always I welcome any comment about this post or any part of my blog.

This entry was posted in Black-and-White Photography, Education, Human Nature, Photography, Polaroid, Teenagers and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

36 Responses to My First Guest Photographer: My Teenage Grandson

  1. Isn’t it gratifying when one of your children, or grandchildren, shows an aptitude for the things you’re passionate about? I’ve experienced that myself, with my grown son, who’s as jazzed about iPhone photography as I am. How wonderful for you to be able to share this, and blogging too, with Cole. He’s got a very unique way of seeing rust–all up close and personal. Terrific work. I’m drawn to the red, of the bridge, of course. But they are all marvelous. #LongLiveRust!

  2. Your grandson and his photography rocks…big time!! How neat is that Grandma? Margie

  3. eof737 says:

    He has a keen eye for capturing layers and complex angles… a talented young man. 🙂

  4. bluebrightly says:

    Wonderful! His rust photos are way sophisticated for someone so young. No surprise that you two had a two way education. You’re really giving him a great foundation – who knows where he’ll go? (I found your site through Northern Narratives)

  5. Talent runs in the family. Cole captured the most amazing images that makes you think and reflect. Some even inspires you to dream and soar like the butterfly resting on the hand.

  6. Northern Narratives says:

    How wonderful that you all share a love and talent for photography.

  7. Great post! Sounds like a good partnership between grandson/grandparent and an iphone/DSLR. WOW

  8. patriciamoed says:

    My favorites are 5 and 6. It’s wonderful that you share this passion with your grandson. He has a great eye already. Is he thinking of studying photography in college?

  9. Tomaz says:

    All the pictures look great, but my favourite is the water drain. The light, the movement…

  10. Gracie says:

    These are absolutely excellent, Sally! I love that shot of the Hydrant, so much details: the colors and the the textures are just brilliant. Hard to believe how today’s camera phones can now take these kinds of unbelievable shots.

  11. Your grandson is a talented young man. I love #4 with the bright color of the bridge. Your Iphone challenge sounds like fun, but not everyone has an Iphone so I’ll just check out your photos.

  12. Ancientfoods says:

    Nice job, he has a good eye. Numbers 3, 6, and 7 are my favorites but they’re all spectacular. Such photos speak to a very bright future.

  13. kasmango says:

    great shots! number 2 really caught my eye, at first glance it looked like a drainage pipe, but a very interesting one…. until I realized it was a bicycle wheel… nice composition and focus!

  14. Wonderful post! I enjoyed all of the photos, but perhaps the third one caught my eye the most. He does have an artistic gift! My 12-year-old son has accompanied me on many photo shoots over the past several years, and it’s a joy to see through his eyes, too. We love our iPhones and use them all of the time; he even received a prestigious photography award using it. I look forward to taking part in your challenge!

  15. Clearly your grandson inherited some of your artistic gifts! I particularly liked his rust series, especially the one of the drainpipe. How about a joint photography exhibit!

  16. Photo number 4 is brilliant. Good young photographer.

  17. Lois Farley Shuford says:

    Great post. And your Grandson has a very good eye!

  18. Love it!!!! I love how you are teaching your grandson but your grandson is also teaching you. He needs that Nikon!! His photographs are fabulous and I love how you’ve helped turn a fascination with rust into a series. I wish I had had a grandparent or parent show me those type of connections when I was young. I can’t wait for the iphoneography challenge launch!! Great post 🙂

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s