Small World by Anne Geddes 123 Pots

‘123 Pots’, six- to seven-month-old babies, Auckland, 1992 by Anne Geddes.

Geddes’ work is notable for its whimsical aesthetic. The images can sometimes border on the surreal as Geddes’ subjects are put in all manner of scenarios. Some are placed in flowerpots, others are dressed as bees. Where this book really succeeds is the fact that it is a retrospective tome that takes a thorough overview of her impressive output.

Baby sitters

Small World by Anne Geddes - baby as bee

This retrospective delves into the Geddes archive stretching back to the 1980s. It should be apparent immediately that she is a photographer clearly in love with her subject. Geddes has often talked about how every baby is beautiful and as a result chooses not to ‘audition’ the babies (as much as you can audition a person who still has trouble keeping saliva in their mouth). Geddes’ office is chock full of photographs sent to her by hopeful parents and it’s when trawling through these images that her subjects are selected. Her sets and lighting are constructed in advance and once the baby model arrives, the shoot is done within half an hour.

What a reader can take from the work is easy to dissect. Geddes’ images may seem elaborate, but are notable for their simplicity. Geddes is a photographer who understands the need for minimalism – particularly important with a subject who is likely to get restless. The sets are small and the props simple. The lighting is straightforward and easily achievable with just a few carefully arranged lamps. Geddes’ work was, and still is, a reaction to the prevalent method of putting your newborn in their smartest outfit and dumping them in front of a backdrop. What Geddes’ work shows is that a little whimsy can bring out the personality of the sitter and elevate the images into something a little more creative. It’s a lesson worth bearing in mind for all forms of portraiture.

SCORE: 4 out of 5

Small World by Anne Geddes - cover

Published by Taschen

Price £44.99, 238 pages, hardback

ISBN 978-3-836519-47-2