How To Approach Child During Photography Session?

  • Photographers of children fall into two categories. They are either 'stalkers', attempting to remain unnoticed by the child, or 'directors', starting with a preconceived idea and exercising control of every detail of lighting, setting and handling of the child. Both methods require a great deal of patience. The stalker may have to wait hours or days or weeks for his picture. The exponent of the director method needs a reservoir of patience to cope with children of varying ratios of resistance and cooperation upon whom he attempts to impose his will. At least some knowledge of basic child psychology is necessary here.
     

  • The stalker technique is epitomized by the work of Henri Cartier Bresson whose pictures are eloquent comments on life. His perceptive genius enables him to observe unseen and to anticipate the significant moment. His Leica, covered with black tape to make it inconspicuous, is virtually an extension of his eye. He is a spectator of life, the world his studio. As he roams, he constantly analyses each situation. Few people notice the patient little man with a camera in his pocket.
    He uses a minimum of equipment which he keeps out of sight as much as possible. His subject is generally 'people' but children appear in his viewfinder at frequent intervals. He never communicates with them or influences them in any way. He waits, and waits for them to reveal themselves. A gesture, an expression, an attitude are observed sharply. The subject is seen in relationship to the surroundings — children just being children whether it be in the back streets of Paris or among the war-tortured ruins of Madrid or wherever their actions can be caught and used as a forceful means of expression.
     

  • It would be impossible to find a greater contrast to the Cartier-Bresson approach than that of Francis Wu in Hongkong. He is the complete director, starting out with a preconceived idea and working out in advance every detail of composition, lighting and costume. Exploiting the whimsical appeal of slant-eyed Chinese children in story-pictures, often with a humorous twist, he has had considerable success in the salons of the world. By sheer force of personality he imposes his will on the children to coax from them the desired mood and expression.
     

  • Working in the studio, his equipment is elaborate. The lighting is multiple flashes with up to eight flashheads, working from a single power source with booster which gives guide numbers of t80-360. This lighting set-up gives him greater speed and depth of focus, even working with a view camera with five-by-four inch format, than is usually enjoyed by miniaturists in day-light. Yet he achieves the undoubted superiority of definition and quality of the larger format. His camera line-up is impressive. He uses various view cameras and roll film single lens reflex.
     

  • After Francis Wu had given extra-mural photographic courses at Hongkong University, the students became so interested that they formed a camera club which has become one of the most successful in the world. His wife Daisy, who was born in Honolulu, has also won an international reputation for child pictures. She met Francis during her college days. Finding herself married to a man whose consuming passion was photography she soon became infected with his enthusiasm and in 1954 won a 2,000-dollar American contest with a picture of her two boys looking out of a misty window and called, Waiting for the Sun. She now has eight grandchildren.
     

  • One of the many clichés concerning child photography is the oft-repeated assertion that children can only be photographed successfully in natural surroundings. My quarrel is with the word 'only'. Cartier-Bresson the stalker and Francis-Wu the director produce pictures that are brilliant in their different ways. And between these methods are endless variations.

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