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Touchstone Center for Children 

February Newsletter


One of the marvels of childhood is a quality of seeing, a freshness of perceiving that as we grow older, is so often taken for granted. A child’s first encounter with seeing a bird standing still, or the way rain falls–each is a sudden entry into a deeper awareness of what is here among us–and, in turn, what so naturally becomes part of the vibrant vocabulary of being a child.

The arts, and so often photography, have always attempted to bring us closer to the vibrancy of our first sightings–images still alive with a sense of the present moment. A few months ago, teacher and photographer, Helen Buttfield, died at the age of 89. Her photographs and our publishing collaborations were, and continue to be, a vital part of the philosophy of the Touchstone Center. When I first encountered Helen’s photographs, some fifty years ago, I was moved and inspired by her ability to capture, through her particular way of seeing, something of a child’s earliest discoveries of the abundance that is our world.

When asked to sum up her life as a photographer, Helen wrote: “Photography is a way of being in the world, of participating in the life of the world.” And like so many of her photographs, one cannot escape the intensity and generosity of her seeing, and along with it, the vibrancy of childhood to partake of the world in all its unfolding.

Perhaps her definition of what it means to be a photographer might also apply to the very nature of education itself–so that the arts, in all their diversity, can be seen as a means for every child to express and share their own sense of  “being in the world."  Or, as one of Helen’s favorite writers Thoreau wrote:
Could a greater miracle take place than for us to look than through each other’s eyes for an instant?

Richard Lewis
Touchstone Center for Children

Photographs by Helen Buttfield, Touchstone Center Archives, and Touchstone Center Publications. Quote by Henry David Thoreau from "Walden and Other Writings by Henry David Thoreau," Copyright © Modern Library, 1992.
Copyright © 2019 The Touchstone Center for Children, All rights reserved.

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