I took my son for a morning walk in the woods last weekend. He’s two, and so is more easily tired and distracted than most. Plus he had to stop at one point and sit on a tree trunk to eat his croissant.
As he did so I started to look around me. I took a few photos with my phone. I imagined a photographic exercise where you have to stand rooted to the spot and see how many interesting photos you can take from that one same position, looking in whichever direction you liked but not moving. Even in a seemingly uniform and uninteresting visual environment I’m convinced that the more time you spend looking, the more you’ll see.
It then occurred to me how little we look around with anything like the openness and curiosity of small children, and how narrowed our field of vision becomes as we grow. We design our environments so that everything is at adult eye level, so we don’t often need to look up or down. Small children like my son are probably much more aware of their visual y-axis, especially if they want to look up at the face of one of the adults around them, for example. Being closer to the ground they’re also more likely to look down and pick things up.
Travel can often loosen adults’ heads up again. Walking down the street of a large city you can often spot the tourists as they’re the ones standing still and looking up (often through a camera viewfinder). Travelling to an unfamiliar environment removes some of our certainties and habits and puts us back in the role of a small child wandering and discovering the world.