Ileen and the X-Pro2. Kurdistan, Iraq, March 2019

The Light of Her Eye

Charlene journal

Kurdistan, Iraq

A few days after I started work proper in Iraq, i encountered a 6 year old Syrian refugee called Ileen, who really took a shine to my camera. I wrote about her experience with the X-Pro2 for the Preemptive Love blog, so do check it out there.

That was the first time I met her. She’d never seen me before and was a little shy, peeking at me over the shoulder of my colleague and her Mum, so after a bit i started taking photos of her and showing them to her on the back of the camera, hoping to draw her out.

It had the desired effect: she sidled up and pretty soon was leaning on me, besotted with my magic box (and who can blame her, really. It is pretty magic). Then she started reaching for it. Curious to see what she’d do, i turned it over to her.

Ileen checking out a photo she’d taken of me with the X-Pro2.
Aforementioned photo of yours truly, by Ileen with the X-Pro2 and XF 35mm F1.4

(I digress here to mention that i am not a kid person. Never have been, never will be. I don’t know what possessed me to voluntarily make contact with a small child. And then hand over my prize possession. I’d blame it on the jet lag, except that I did the same thing again a few weeks later!)

I was shocked to watch her use the Pro2. She understood the electronic viewfinder. She figured out how to preview images and return the camera to shooting mode by either hitting the “play” button again, or half depressing the shutter button, depending on where her fingers were. She figured out what the front and rear command dials did during image preview.

And she did it without any assistance from me. She’d simply watched me work, my fingers flicking in their reflexive patterns across the body of the camera, and made the connection. She’d never touched a camera before.

Then there were the photos she took. Ileen made shots I’d be proud to call my own. If you didn’t get a good look on the Preemptive Love blog, here they are again, light boxed.

Mum is the most important one of all. Photo by Ileen with the X-Pro2 and XF 35mm F1.4. Kurdistan, Iraq, March 2019
The ladies who make Premptive Love’s knitted products. Photo by Ileen with the X-Pro2 and XF 35mm F1.4. Kurdistan, Iraq, March 2019
My lovely colleague Enaas. Photo by Ileen with the X-Pro2 and XF 35mm F1.4. Kurdistan, Iraq, March 2019
The ladies who make Premptive Love’s knitted products. Photo by Ileen with the X-Pro2 and XF 35mm F1.4. Kurdistan, Iraq, March 2019
The ladies who make Premptive Love’s knitted products. Photo by Ileen with the X-Pro2 and XF 35mm F1.4. Kurdistan, Iraq, March 2019

I was gobsmacked.  They weren’t all winners, of course, because she was playing. But those that were, show an instinct for composition, sensitivity to the edges of the frame, and the kinds of things I had to learn by making crap frames for years.

She’d had my camera for one hour. This kid is crazy camera-intuitive

I can’t even imagine what another hour would do. Or a day, a week, a year, 5 years. Imagine what she could be doing at the age of 20.

Ileen with the X-T3

Another visit a few weeks later revealed she’d somehow learned to hold a camera and chimp previews like a pro. I don’t know what she’s watching on YouTube, but I’m guessing it’s something most of us camera geeks might find pretty compelling too!