For the last 30 years, it’s been impossible to miss Anne Geddes’ photographs. Her iconic photos of babies sitting in flower pots, dressed up as snap peas and covered in cabbage have graced greeting cards, calendars and posters. She made baby photography an art form, creating unique and whimsical scenes that capture the joy and spirit of new life.
Still, decades later, Geddes says she thinks people miss a lot of symbolism in her work. “Babies can be incredibly charming and beautiful, but there’s a serious thread in the subject matter," she told TODAY.
If you look closely, you'll realize that every picture she takes is linked to nature. “My message through my work is that we’re all responsible for all of the children all of the time, and we should all strive to make the world better for them.” Her philosophy? It’s important to not only nurture babies, but the environment as well.
Having photographed hundreds of babies in her career now, Geddes has been revisiting some of her most cherished and iconic photos, and just published a collection of about 200 in a new book called Small World.
Contrary to the adjective in the title, it’s rather a big book — large in dimensions and weight. In fact, it’s about six pounds, the average size of a newborn baby. Although Geddes insists it wasn’t planned.
“It’s really nice to look at the early portraits in my career,” she said. “When I was doing the early ones in the late '80s and early '90s, I always tried to create portraits that were very simple and classic, yet capturing the character of that child. It’s nice to see they stood the test of time.”
Geddes got her start in photography creating baby and family portraits that she made into customized Christmas cards. According to the essay from Holly Stuart Hughes in the front of the book, she was self-taught and her efforts were unpolished, but the photos showed that she had a knack for capturing kids’ personalities.
“You can’t make babies do anything,” Geddes said. But she added that sometimes, they do something “lovely and unexpected” that lifts the image. For example, in the book on page 166, there’s an iconic shot of a baby flashing a gummy smile while lying on a bed of roses. “It was such a spontaneous moment when she smiled like that,” Geddes recalled.
The book isn't the only retrospective project Geddes has been working on. She's found some of her former models and is featuring them in her “Baby Look at You Now” series on Instagram.
She said it was something she wanted to do when she turned 60, which happened last year. “I think I needed to wait that long to revisit them,” she said.
One of Geddes' favorite parts about her job is that the subject matter is so positive and joyful. “Babies represent human beings right at the beginning of their lives when they’re all totally good,” she said. “There’s no such thing as a mean-spirited baby.”
Geddes says her most memorable photo shoots were the ones she’s done in neonatal intensive care units (NICU). “There’s an image in the book with a little baby in a gentleman’s large hand,” she said. “It was shot way before I became well known and it’s totally surprising to me over the years as to how many people have related to that image.” She said families with premature babies have reached out to her saying how much that image meant to them, giving their family hope.
As Geddes looks back, she's also looking forward. She recently launched a nursery paint line. And her plans for the future also include continuing to work with causes she cares about, such as prevention of child abuse and meningococall disease along with the March of Dimes.