A child will not be rushed. He may warm
to you in a minute; he may take half an hour. Each, according to his
disposition, has a time-limit of acceptance of the unfamiliar. Any
attempt to coerce him before he has made up his mind about you is
When I first started to photograph
children, with slow materials and exposures of up to one second, the
main preoccupation was to keep the child stationary. I soon realized
that if I could induce every child to smile and remain motionless for
long enough to give me a sharp picture, I should please parents.
Smile-getting became a habit, as if this was the only kind of
expression worth recording. A special kind of technique had to be
developed in which I imposed myself on the child, held his attention
and enticed him to smile. Since the peak of the expression had to be
caught in the middle of the exposure, a sense of anticipation and
split-second timing became highly developed.
I also developed a sense of timing in my
approach to the child — the little play-routines, the sounds and the
jokes — almost in the manner of a comedian's timing for laughs. Smiles
became synonymous with photography. And every day there were dozens of
children defying me to make them laugh. It was like a game, pitting my
skills against their defiance and it could be exhilarating when things
ran my way, frustrating at other times.
I felt like Gilbert's Jester
`Though your head it may rack with a bilious attack
And your senses with toothache you're losing,
Don't be mopy or flat — they don't fine you for that
If you're properly quaint and amusing.'