My Canon PowerShot is pretty dinged up, so when my 4-year-old nephew asked if he could take a picture with it, I said sure, although I suppose I wouldn’t have been happy if he’d broken it. I didn’t have to worry at all. He was careful and wound up taking quite a few pictures. I think he liked the fake click noise the camera makes when you push the button.

When I looked at the pictures he’d taken, I was pleasantly surprised by the results. A few were odd shots of people, but most were of the environment around him. Some of them made me laugh. And some of them made me go, “Hmmmm. That looks like art!”

I’ve decided to let the public decide. Here is a selection of my nephew’s photos. I’ve left out the ones that were way out of focus or people’s faces. The only processing I’ve done is to downsize them for easy computer viewing. Otherwise they are untouched — no cropping, no lighting fixes, no color tweaks — just the world as my camera sees it while in my nephew’s hands. I think you’ll agree that it’s an intimate view.

Foot with leg.
Leg with foot.
Water dish.
Sun and shadow on boards.
Sun and shadows.
Sneaker on deck.
Sneaker on deck.
Self-portrait #1.
Portrait of an aunt.
Portrait of an aunt.
Armpit with a view.
Self-portrait #2.
Clay and wood.
Mug on table.

Purists will argue that my nephew isn’t creating art because he doesn’t have any control over what he’s doing. I’m going to argue for “art is in the eye of the beholder.” When I look at these, I see art. They show me a familiar world in a new way, and they get me thinking new thoughts. And isn’t that what art’s all about?

What do you think? Can 4-year-olds make art?

5 thoughts on “Photography by a 4-Year-Old: Is It Art?”

  1. Of course 4 year olds can make art. 🙂 I actually think “Mug on Table” is pretty cool and would look great framed. I mean, I have random stuff like that in my apartment. 🙂

    1. “Mug on Table” is one of my favorites. I also love “Self Portrait #2”; the unexpected view under the arm pit.

  2. Yes! Of course they can! Young children sometimes are the better artists because they are less inhibited and everything is new and exciting to them. I did a series of pop-up book making workshops with preschoolers, elementary students and teens, and the preschoolers were the most likely to expeiment with color and shape. I loved hearing the stories they told about the pictures they drew.

  3. All children create art, some are better than others but that is the same as adults. I’ve seen some artwork that was disgusting and yet they won an award! Like you said, art is in the eye of the beholder.

    By the way, I am an artist, too.

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