Anne Geddes Talks Baby Photography

Posted by on Sep 03, 2013

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Anne Geddes has enjoyed a storied career as a photographer, with her signature work being baby photo calendars. Her latest project, the 2014 Heartfelt calendar, features babies and wool, a favorite medium for its luxurious softness. Read on to hear more about her baby photography and perhaps you'll get some creative ideas for your next project!

Your 2014 Heartfelt calendar features some of your iconic images in a new light. What made you decide to revisit those ideas?

The 2014 “Heartfelt” calendar is the first new calendar I’ve shot in quite a few years … not for any specific reason, just because I was busy working on other projects. To shoot 12 images exclusively with a calendar in mind requires another way of creative thinking. You have to imagine the viewer looking at one particular image for 4 weeks, and therefore each image needs to resonate strongly in some way.

For me to begin shooting the “Heartfelt” calendar, I consciously took my mind creatively back to when I first began shooting calendars, hence my revisiting of some of the themes of my more iconic images from the 1990s. I also wanted to give myself a challenge in relation to my method of shooting, and the materials involved in the making of the props.

Looking back through one of my own coffee table books, “Pure,” I was taken by the fact that so many of the images were created using silk or very fine wool. Of course both products are completely natural, which had enormous appeal to me, but they are also visually beautiful within themselves, through texture, shape and color. As an anchor throughout the 12 images, I felt that a reference to my earlier images of flowerpots and ladybugs would trigger beautiful memories for someone who would be buying the calendar today … possibly some who had childhood memories of the earlier images. It gives me a lot of pleasure to bring my work to a new generation of women, who often tell me that they grew up with my earlier images on their walls.

What made you decide to use wool in all 12 of the “Heartfelt” images?

My last coffee table book, “Beginnings,” was released in 2010. Over the 2-year period when I was shooting for “Beginnings” I again used a lot of soft wool and silk, to emulate the cocooning effects of nature, as the theme for “Beginnings” was based around elements of nature that bring forth new life. During the research for this book I came across so many websites and articles featuring soft merino wool, in what seemed to be an endless amount of inspiring colors.

You see, every project begins with the germ of an idea and expands from there. I just needed the one element of inspiration to go forward and, believe me, to hold in your hand a piece of soft merino wool is enough to spark the imagination in all sorts of ways. When I stopped shooting “Beginnings,” I had a gut feeling that I would somehow continue to use wool in another project going forward. I was amazed at how flexible wool is creatively, whether knitted, felted, molded — it was just so inspiring to work with, and it’s a natural as far as babies are concerned.

Of course the millions of craft people around the world will totally understand this! There was wool everywhere in the studio, clinging to every surface, and I still have a storage room full of wool because I have a feeling that I’m not finished with it yet. It’s interesting though, that for me, when I think of wool, I think of a sense of nostalgia for times past, when life was more simple and products more natural.

Anne Geddes 2014 Heartfelt Calendar
Anne Geddes May Bumble Bee spread
Can you describe a typical calendar photo shoot?

I’m often asked this question and I know there’s an assumption that the atmosphere in a studio where babies are being photographed would have to be noisy and chaotic. But it’s generally quite the opposite. Much planning happens beforehand in terms of the props and lighting. Really, once the day arrives when I’m photographing the babies, the concept has been totally researched, gently nudged along over a period of weeks (often months), colors planned, backgrounds created, materials chosen, lighting done. I often feel that by shoot day, I’m already 80% along the path to the creation of the final image. Being 80% along that path however, means that the final 20% needs to involve an element of magic — which is where the babies come in.

When the babies are in the studio, absolutely everything revolves around them. I have dolls that I use in the days before to light the set and fine-tune everything. You need to be quick when you’re photographing babies, and not distracted by anything else. The atmosphere needs to be calm and outwardly very relaxed, which can be deceiving but my crew (most of whom I have worked with for many years) are very professional and very aware of their roles within the team.
Baby Jai: A tissue under the chin is a perfect solution for teething babies to keep the costume dry until the last minute.
Where do you find your models?

From everywhere. I really don’t shoot as often as people think. In the days before the internet and digital photography, people would send photos of their babies by post, and we had a huge file of babies of different ages. These days people email or we find babies via word of mouth. Often the newborns in my images are only days or weeks old, so finding newborns for the images is always a last minute thing.

I’ve been photographing a lot of pregnant women lately, who are obviously all in that zone where they are having babies, or their friends are. I certainly don’t audition, if that’s what you mean, as I truly believe that all babies are beautiful, and they all bring their own individual charm to an image that is always totally genuine, and can be completely unexpected. Later this year my husband and I will be moving to New York (which we’re very excited about) and I’m so looking forward to photographing again in the U.S. and meeting parents and babies from all walks of life.
All props and styling for Anne's latest 'Heartfelt' calendar project were created using Merino wool.
What's next for you?

I’m midway through shooting for the 2015 calendar, with a theme that I can’t reveal right now, but I would like to extend the project into a children’s book, as I’m finding the subject matter so inspiring. I’ve also been doing a great deal of traveling to shoot in different cultures, which I’ve really enjoyed. In the future I’d like to continue this work balance between studio work and traveling with my crew to other locations. Both are challenging but make for a real creative balance. I’m also finding that I’m starting to enjoy private portraits again, after many years away from that area. Certainly, there is lots to think about and imagine.

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