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Little Fires Everywhere

by Celeste Ng
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In Little Fires Everywhere, why does Mia's art professor want Mia to articulate the choices she makes in her photos?

In Little Fires Everywhere, Mia's art professor wants Mia to articulate the choices she makes in her photos because she wants her to make a statement with each picture she takes instead of relying on instinct.

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Not long after starting a photography course at the New York School of Fine Arts Mia is invited by her professor, Pauline Hawthorne, to her apartment. Pauline wants to see some more of Mia's photos, a clear indication that she believes her student to have real talent when it comes to taking pictures.

When Mia arrives, Pauline peppers her with questions about her photography, just as she does in class. She wants to know all kinds of things such as why she sets the camera so low in one photo but so close in another.

The most important question she asks, however, is what Mia was thinking about when she took a particular shot. Under Pauline's tutelage, Mia has learned the value of thinking about her work, of articulating reasons for choosing a specific f-stop. It's not enough that her photos look right; she has to explain why they look the way they do.

During their conversation at Pauline's apartment, Pauline presses Mia to articulate exactly what she's done and why in her work. This is because she wants Mia to make a statement with each photo she takes, no matter how simple or straightforward it may be. And Mia can only make such a statement if she's actually thought about what's right and what's wrong in taking a photograph instead of relying on instinct, as she'd previously done.

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