Is Psychology Really Necessary In Child Photography?

  • They are brought to my studio in all kinds of mood. Boisterous children. Children crying, laughing, sulking, eager, suspicious. Happy children. Obstreperous children. Most are a joy to play with and to photograph. And it must be admitted at once that these are often the ones whose parents take psychology with a pinch of salt, or at least keep it in perspective. Many of them would say that they use 'plain common sense' in bringing up their children.

  • But the percentage of 'difficult' children seems to increase as the years go by and one is bound to have doubts as to the success of methods urged by psychologists over quite a long period. There is little evidence that children are better adjusted than formerly or, indeed, that the children of an affluent society are any happier than the underprivileged, sometimes bare foot, children of yester-year.
    We live in a society geared to the needs of the young. The surprising thing is that so many of them, resisting a positive bombardment of undesirable influences, grow up unselfish and with some moral integrity. For most are encouraged to get their own way, by any means in their power, almost from birth. Any form of control is considered repressive. And yet I do not think any responsible psychologist has ever denied the need for discipline for people living together in a civilized community. 'Freedom of expression' is a phrase used to excuse bad temper and selfishness. In extreme cases, so called 'progressive' parents will give junior a hatchet if he expresses a desire to smash up the piano. After all he is only 'working off his frustrations'. In their desire to bring up their children in a modern manner, parents eagerly swallow garbled pop-psychology as served up through the mass-media, adopting the jargon to impress their friends, and usually missing the real point of psychology entirely. The most important lessons of all, tolerance and respect for other people's wishes, are omitted.

  • While one would not like to see a return to anything like Victorian heavy- handedness, nevertheless, it is now obvious that complete lack of control results in more unsure, frustrated, and discontented children than ever before. Is there any validity then in the oft-repeated assertion that photographers of children need to be psychologists?

  • Some fortunate people have the heaven-sent gift of being able to win the confidence of almost any child. They regard psychology as so much 'mumbo- jumbo.' They succeed simply with absolute sincerity and love of children. They have the ability to make everything into an exciting game and sweep the children along with them on a wave of fun. I know of one such person who loves and is loved by all children. In the studio, even the most stubborn of children respond instinctively to her. She does not 'spoil' them, in fact she is quite firm, but she generally manages to bring out the best in them. She would not regard herself as a psychologist, yet she is probably one of the best. If you have this instinct for handling children you have no need to read psychology. But you are one of a very select band. Most of us find the behavior of children inexplicable at times and turn to psychology for help.

  • Child psychology attempts to explain the child's behavior and promote understanding. In this it is usually successful. It is less so, yet, in supplying the answers. For it is a very young science and psychologists are still experimenting with our children, liable to reverse an opinion between one book and the next. Perhaps last year you were told that to say 'No' to a child was to make him feel unwanted and unloved. The book you are reading now might well tell you that it is even excusable and natural to lose your temper with the child. A child psychologist once told me that secretly he felt that applied psychology was best applied 'to the appropriate part of the anatomy'. And I confess I have seen the old-fashioned method work wonders.

  • As soon as you attempt to photograph children from outside your family circle and especially in the case of the professional who may have thousands of children brought to his studio in the course of a year, you will encounter children from a variety of backgrounds ranging from the most disciplined to the very 'permissive'. An interest in psychological theory will help you to understand difficult behavior and consequently to be more patient, provided you remain open-minded about the subject and learn as much as possible from your experience. The studio provides an opportunity to observe the various types of reaction by children to the same set of circumstances. Train yourself to make mental notes and profit from each new point that arises in the course of each sitting.

More About Methods of Approach In Child Photography

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