`Aren't parents a problem?' as Miss
Five-Year-Old was overheard saying to Miss Four-Year-Old. 'Children
begin by loving their parents,' said Oscar Wilde; 'after a time they
judge them; rarely do they forgive them.'
Most of us, as parents, make many
mistakes. We are overindulgent or neglectful, overstrict or too lax,
overanxious or too indifferent. We can create an inferiority complex by
expecting too much from our child or by belittling his achievements.
Friction between parents can make a child feel insecure. On the other
hand, displays of affection between them can create jealousy.
Pampering on the one hand, or heavy
discipline on the other, are both equally undesirable. But the parent
who vacillates between both extremes according to the mood is worst of
all, creating feelings of frustration and insecurity. Parenthood is
surely the most difficult profession in the world. Inevitably parents
are blamed for all character aberrations and can be forgiven for
thinking at times that they cannot win. All we can do is to be
sensitive to our child's course of development, try to he
understanding, bring him up in a happy home atmosphere, keep all our
promises to him — and also our threats — teach him respect for other
peoples wishes and opinions and try to find the right blend of freedom
When introduced to an unfamiliar
experience such as having a photograph taken, an insecure child may
test the affection of his parents by resorting to tears or difficult
behavior. He needs assurance of the quality of their love. We can only
deal with this situation by being understanding and sympathetic. But it
underlines probably the most important aspect of bringing up a child.
We must constantly bear in mind his need to be reassured of our love
As photographers we must expect to have
to handle a great variety of children with a diversity of backgrounds.
Many will have been over-prepared and over-fussed by well-meaning
mothers. Some may have been told not to smile because of gaps in their
teeth. Little ones will have been told that the `man will not hurt'
them. Some will be wearing rehearsed smiles. Most will be dressed too
elaborately. Fortunately, most children, when played with, soon abandon
such adult-imposed artificialities.
Some parents seek the advice of the
photographer regarding 'preparations' for a studio-session. This not
only puts them on the right lines but also makes them feel more
confident, armed with the feeling that they are approaching the
'sitting' in the right way. And some of this confidence will probably
'rub off' on to the child. When approached this way, the salient points
to stress are as follows:
Do not tell young children beforehand
that they are going to be photographed. You want the sitting to be a
lot of fun — not an ordeal.
Infants are in their best humor after a
nap and a feed. Choose the right time of day for the appointment.
It is wise not to have friends present as
they tend to distract the child. Do not tell the kiddies to smile, sit
still or be good. Such instructions only increase a child's natural
For clothing, it is better to have
something light in color and texture, to complement the natural charm
of childhood. Familiar clothes should be worn, even if not new, and
younger babies are best photographed without shoes and socks.
Schoolboys should not be dressed too stiffly. Sportswear will make them
feel more at ease.
Hair should not be altered or bows and
ribbons added for the occasion. Simplicity is the key-note in child
photography. Nothing should detract from such a wonderful subject.
But the best advice of all is do not
I know of one photographer who added a
further piece of advice, but one I consider inadvisable; all
progressive parents please keep their children on a leash.
From school age children usually respond
more readily if the parents are not present in the studio. A proud and
often anxious mother may cause some embarrassment to the child and her
gaze might inhibit him. But with younger children it is advisable to
have the mother close by. I sit her close to the baby.
An audience of relatives and friends, all
anxious to help, can be extremely distracting and you sometimes need to
exclude them from the studio as diplomatically as possible. Even the
kiddy’s mother, who naturally feels that she can induce expressions
better than anybody else, has occasionally to be restrained from making
a series of clucking noises, or, with older children, entreaties to
'smile as you said you were going to.'
I usually sit the child with his back to
the mother for several reasons. Firstly, the model (key) light is
placed on the side the child is facing and therefore her shadow will
not fall on the background behind the child. Secondly, if the child
overbalances it will usually be backwards and the mother is in a
position to catch him. Thirdly, he will not be able to see his mother's
face, and although he will be confident because he knows she is close,
you will hold his attention more successfully. It is essential for the
kiddie to watch your face so that you can control the angle at which he
looks, coax out an expression and anticipate the moment of exposure.
Sometimes when you are happily capturing
a series of entrancing expressions from a child, his mother may be
urging him, `Oh come on. Smile like you do at home.' Unfortunately,
your pictures will usually be judged by the amount of smile you managed
to induce. Mrs. Gripman says that when a mother of a two-months-old
baby comes to the studio she says, 'He must laugh. He's always laughing
at home.' Says Mrs. Gripman, 'It's hard to refrain from asking "Even
when he has tummy ache?"'
`If he cries the mother is quick to say,
almost as if a button had been pressed, "I don't understand it, he
never cries." Sometimes grandmother who accompanies the little wonder
to be photographed will give instructions how it is to be done and how
the child shall be made to laugh — because the child must laugh.'