Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Anne Geddes

Anne Geddes is a photographer. If she's who I think she is, I'm familiar with her work. I didn't realize until fairly recently that she was Australian.

I think she's the one who takes cutesy photos of little children.

Okay yeah. Google confirms that. I typed in her name, and got pictures of little children in bunny costumes.

One of our family friends bought me a book of baby names with Anne Geddes photos. I was going to say she gave it to us as a gift when Jack was born. But why would you give a book of baby names to someone who's already had the baby? Maybe this was a not-so-subtle way of pushing us to have a second child?

I'm going to admit this, and probably look like a horrible person. I'm not a fan of Anne Geddes. It makes me sound like I hate kids or something. I don't. I think most kids are adorable. But I think I prefer more candid shots. I like kids looking themselves.

Here are some of my favorite pictures of MY favorite child:

Yeah. Those are the type of photos that I love. Professional photographers are often good at making ordinary people look like models. They're not always good at making people look like themselves.

Let's get onto Geddes.....

Baby Anne was born in Queensland, on 13 September 1956. According to my old favorite birthday calculator, she was not born on Friday the 13th. She was born on a Thursday.

Geddes grew up on a beef cattle property. She has three sisters; two older, and one younger.

It sounds like they had an idyllic childhood....playing in creeks and all that. When we lived in St. Louis, we had a creek in our backyard. That was fun.

There's a story here I don't fully understand. When she was around eight, she was standing near the front garden, and she told her mom there was something she had to do. Her mother said she should go and play. Geddes told her mother that this isn't what she meant. It was a moment of absolute clarity for Anne, a premonition of the deeply felt belief that would become her passion and life’s work. I guess it was some type of spiritual awakening? I have vague memories of being in a car as a child, and suddenly thinking that I've been alive since...well pretty much since the beginning of human history. There was just this sense of knowing that we've all been here again and again and again and again.

Do any of you remember having spiritual insights as children....or atheist ones?

As a child, Geddes liked looking at photographs in magazines. That's not surprising.

Oh, here's something I like. Lord Wiki says she self-taught herself photography. There were no photography courses at her school. I love stories of self-taught people.

When Geddes was seventeen, she took a tourist job in New Zealand. My parents are there now! Their ship left Dunedin not too long ago. They told me where they were headed, but I've already forgotten. Oops.

Wait. Here it is. I'm looking at the cruise website. They're headed towards Christchurch, and then up to the North Island.

While working in New Zealand, Geddes took hundreds of photographs. In this decade, that's not at all unusual. We have digital cameras. In the 1970's, they did not. Hundreds of photographs would cost a LOT of money, so this shows that photography was an important hobby to Geddes.

When Geddes was twenty-two, she opened up her own retail clothing shop called Daddy Long Legs. I guess it didn't do too well. She closed it around a year later.

Next, she worked as an assistant at a TV station in Brisbane. It was there that she met her husband Mr. Geddes. He was the station's programming director.

They got married in Hong Kong. Why Hong Kong? Was there something special about that place for them?

Oh! They didn't just marry in Hong Kong. They moved there. I wonder why.

In Hong Kong, Geddes decided to open up her own little portrait photography business. She did this for neighbors, and friends, and also put up notices on community boards.

In the mid 1980's, the Geddes family moved back to Australia. This time, they settled in Sydney.

They had a baby. Geddes used the baby in a photographic holiday card. Friends liked it, and asked her to do cards for them. This led her to launch a small holiday card business. Now almost everyone uses pictures of their kids in holiday cards....well, if they have kids. If they don't, they use their dogs or cats. One day I'd like to receive a holiday card with someone's pet tarantula. That would be awesome.

A few years after their time in Sydney, the Geddes family moved to Melbourne. It was here that Geddes set up her first own studio. She used an old garage in their yard.

We haven't had a studio portrait done of Jack since he was about two. At first, it was because he developed a severe fear of the process. And then after awhile, I guess we just figured we like the photographs we take ourselves. Tim's really good with photography, so....we have that. I take fairly okay pictures. And then Jack takes tons of photographs of himself. He's really into the whole self-portrait thing.

In the late 1980's, the Geddes had their second child...another girl. And then they also moved to Auckland, New Zealand.

In 1988, Geddes had one of her photographs published for the first time. It was a photograph she had taken in Melbourne. A small Auckland magazine published it. Around this time, Geddes was doing wedding photography, and not enjoying it much. Geddes decided to concentrate on portraits of children.

I guess maybe Geddes didn't have an idyllic childhood after all. Lord Wiki says she started doing charity work for child abuse, and When she was approached about increasing awareness of the prevention of child abuse, Anne recalled the shadow of her own emotionally barren childhood.
I wonder what went wrong. As a child, I didn't feel very loved. I think I was...probably. I just didn't feel it. It's hard to explain. I guess I felt loved in a more obligatory way; kind of the way we love our cat that pees all over the place. I felt more tolerated than adored. But despite that, I still see my early childhood years as idyllic. I remember exploring creeks, swimming in lakes, eating cookies and chocolate milk at camp, riding bikes in the neighborhood, sledding down steep hills......

The way Geddes and her husband helped the child abuse cause was by selling calenders.

Wow. The two of them must have had a LOT of faith in Geddes work. In order to publish a second calender, they sold their New Zealand home, and used all their life savings. They printed out 20,000 copies of the calender. It sold out in three weeks. That's awesome.

Geddes' career zoomed off.

She went on the Oprah Winfrey show.

Oh, she has her own clothing line. I don't know if I knew that.

Anyway, Lord Wiki rambles on a bit more. Basically, what he's saying is that Geddes has been extremely successful.

I'm going to pop over to the official Geddes website.

On this page, the Geddes have a list of charitable stuff they've done lately. They donated 50,000 dollars worth of babies clothes to Haiti. That's pretty awesome. They also donated clothes to victims of Hurricane Katrina, and they gave money to the Tsunami cause.

This page has a gallery of Geddes' work, and also includes a video of Geddes talking.

This is cool.. Here's a photograph of a baby named Joshua, then they also have a photograph of Joshua at age sixteen.

Here's an inspiring page. It's a photograph of a very premature baby, and then there's a photo of the girl at twelve-years-old....looking happy and healthy.

Here's a frequently asked questions page. She's asked about her childhood, and how it differs from the upbringing of her own children. She says, my upbringing was certainly vastly different to the way my husband and I have chosen to raise our own girls. I feel with our own children that we have loved and encouraged them in a way that enables them to understand, as women in today's world, anything is possible for them.

She has an autobiography out that goes into more details about this childhood. Although a reviewer on Amazon says the book concentrates more about the rise of her career. I guess it focuses more on the positive.

Geddes loves babies. She says, They are all brand-new citizens of the world, with no notions of hatred, racial bias, political dogma, or religious intolerance. I guess she doesn't believe in reincarnation. Well, I guess you could believe in it, but feel our slate is wiped clean before we're born.

Geddes talks about how she provides a very safe and gentle environment in her studio for the infants. That's the thing about being a studio photographer. It's not just about snapping photos. It's about making people feel relaxed...comfortable.

We've done family photos...mostly at weddings. And you can see such differences. There are great photographs where we're all laughing...REALLY laughing. We look natural and fun. Then there are other photographs where we have stiff tense smiles.

I was horribly disappointed with our wedding photographer. Photographing a wedding party probably requires as much patience as photographing children. People are so tense. Well, our photographer did nothing to help us relax. In fact, I think he made me feel even more tense. So, in our photo's, that's how we look.

Here's an example. I'm not sure if it's something outsiders can notice, but I can see that no one in the photo is feeling happy and relaxed at that point. Everyone looks bit annoyed, although my dad is a bit better at faking it.

I also remember when I was working at the preschool in Fort Worth. They had a photographer come to do class photos. He was horrible, very impatient with the children.

I'm going to look at some of the Anne Geddes products, see if there's anything that catches my eye.

This fairy dress set is kind of cute, although it's $95. I can't imagine spending that much money on baby clothes. Baby's spit up and poop on their clothes. I think it's best to go the cheap route.

Most of this stuff is really not my type of thing.

I don't think I'm ever going to be an Anne Geddes fan, but she does seem like a really cool person. I find her story inspiring.

I feel so dumb, but I can't figure out if this blog, I'm now looking at, is a joke or not. It's this whole blog against Geddes, saying her photographs are pornographic. I'm HOPING it's a joke. Either way though, I find it pretty offensive. Maybe I'm missing something, but I don't see pictures of babies in flowers and plants as being sexual. There's talk of it symbolizing deflowering. Whatever.

Horrible abuse happens to children. Children are raped, starved, degraded, and exploited in terrifying ways. I don't see how getting yourself photographed in a cutesy outfit can compare to that.

I'm thinking is IS a joke. There's a book mentioned, a memoir written by one of the so-called victims. I can't find anything about this book, except on the blog. Although I guess the book may have been canceled.

There's also an anti-Geddes Facebook page. One of it's members says:

What Anne Geddes does is not beautiful. It objectifies children, and makes them just another part of her artwork, without any input from them. Worst of all, she does this with young babies, who do not have the ability to say "Actually, I don't want to be dressed up like a pumpkin, get your hands off me!" By doing this..., Geddes is taking from these babies their right to be respected as humans, and instead turning them into manipulated parts of her canvas.
Well, you know that's the annoying thing about babies. They can't speak and tell us what they prefer. Should I sue my parents for feeding their future vegetarian mashed up meat?

The thing is though babies CAN communicate. They do let grown-ups know what they'll tolerate. They'll cry. They'll pull away. They'll scream. Jack let us know he wouldn't tolerate sleeping in a crib or drinking milk out of a bottle. He let us know when he didn't want certain people holding him.

The babies in the Anne Geddes photos look pretty content. I don't think anyone was doing anything against their will.

As for the photographs being sexual.....

I think I'm safe in saying that MOST healthy adults do not see the pictures as being sexual. Most adults see the innocent beauty that exists in naked little babies and young children. For those who see the photos in an inappropriate way, I just hope they can have control....look and not touch.

Once a relative sent me a email warning that people were going through the internet to search for photos of babies in diapers. She suggested I make sure I have no photos like that of Jack on my blog. My feeling was I can't hide my child from the world. Who knows who's looking at our babies at the grocery store....the park....the zoo. People may be seeing our children in ways we don't want them to be seen. But it's not something we can prevent. You just have to hope that it doesn't go beyond looking.

I personally don't find Geddes photographs to be appealing. But I find it really hard to understand why people would find them to be actually offensive.


I'm reading further. The Facebook group IS supposed to be a joke...a satire. Okay. That's a relief. Maybe the blog was too, then. The Facebook one is in response to the Bill Henson controversy. This is that guy in the center of one of those is-it-art-or-abuse controversies.

I'm looking at Bill Henson's work on Google Images. I personally see a huge difference between his stuff and Anne Geddes. What's the difference? I'm honestly not quite sure. It's definitely culture-related. In some cultures, it's perfectly appropriate for children to play around naked. In other cultures, it's not okay.

Maybe it's an age thing? I'm just going to talk about my own culture here. I think there's an age where children can roam about naked, and no one blinks an eye. Then there's an age where more modesty is expected.

The other issue...and I may be wrong about this....but I think those who see infants and toddlers as sexual beings are fairly rare. I think seeing older children, and young teens, as being sexual is much more common. There's more risk of abuse, maybe?

It's also about the context of the photo. I think with babies and toddlers, almost any nakedness is cute and innocent. With older children and teens, I think there are boundaries. My feeling is if the children at that age, and in that culture are used to being out and's fine. If they're not....then it's not okay.

It's all very complicated, and I don't think we'll ever agree on where to draw the line. I see Geddes work as very different from Henson. Other people might not. Other people support his work. How do they distinguish between his photography, and child pornography? What makes a photo of a naked child art? Is there a way to qualify that?

Then you have people getting in trouble for photographing their children naked in the bathtub. And some people are offended by breastfeeding photos.

It's like a big spectrum. On one end, you have the extreme prudes. On the other end, you have the anything-goes crowd. We all fit in there somewhere. I think I'm in the middle....or close to it.


  1. Candid shots are wonderful. I like pictures of my kids sitting in the fridge and so on. very nice.

    As far as spiritual sort of insights as a child, I knew at a young age what I was here for.
    Then I grew up and became distracted and whatever else. Then I met this really hot acupuncturist and I remembered what my mission on Earth was. It was amazing. Then I became horribly, awfully depressed when she didn't end up being friends with me. That is (possibly) the most confused I've ever felt in my whole life. very entertaining.

    But yes - I felt (in her presence) the exact way I did when I was quite young (and I knew what I was on Earth for).

    THAT is a pretty neat gift, dontcha think? Helping people remember what their mission in life is.

    Dina, you look gorgeous in that wedding photo. ;D
    I like that those are your favorite pictures of Jack.

  2. oh - and I didn't look at Anne Gedde's work. There's another artist - similar style that I like - but I can't find her name anywhere. oh - you know I think it's Kim Anderson. i'm so smart.
    I do like that style. But I agree with your candid shots are better mentality.
    although I do really like the other ones, too.

    I made my own, in fact, of my daughter in that same style.

  3. HappyOrganist,

    I can't blame you for being depressed about all that. It is sad when relationships don't work out the way we want. But I still think you both benefited by crossing paths. And who knows what the future will bring.

    I don't know if your wedding photo comment is a compliment, or you're just trying to be disagreeable. I'm going to be delusional, and imagine you're complimenting me AND agreeing with me. Maybe I look good despite looking very irritable. Although I don't think I look any of the wedding photos. And I'm not being modest. I'm very vain and capable of thinking I look awesome in photos. I just think those photos are bad.

    Cool about making your own photos with your daughter in that same style. Did they come out good?

    I think it's all just a personal preference thing. I like candid. Other people like the portrait stuff.

    And with portraits, or any group photos, I like ones where people wear their regular clothes. My mom prefers the photos where everyone coordinates. We did a family photo (before we were married with kids) and everyone had to wear red. We look okay in an off way, but I don't feel we look like ourselves.

  4. Happy Organist,

    Hey. I found something I like about the wedding photo!! It almost looks like I have arm muscles. At least I think so. Although it must be an optical illusion, because I don't think I really even worked out in those days.

  5. Dina I'm going to slap you. Why on earth would I give you that compliment if I didn't mean it? But I guess I won't repeat it if you don't want to hear it.

    anyway.. we have snow outside. and I have a lot of errands to run today. that's kinda fun.

  6. HappyOrganist,

    Slap me? Crap. Didn't mean to annoy you. Does this put me in danger of your sex revenge curses?

    Hey, to my winked with your compliment. So....

    Oh wait. Were you just trying to flirt with me?

  7. You know how hard it is for me to choose which smiley to use? And now you've just reinforced my fear that it matters.

    As far as flirting, come a little bit closer and I'll tell you if I"m flirting.

  8. HappyOrganist,

    But it's good to keep me on my toes...confused.

    I'm sorry if I've driven you to return to your Smiley complex.