The best images are the ones that retain their strength and impact over the years, regardless of the number of times they are viewed. -Anne Geddes
Anne Geddes is known for her creative, sensitive and evocative photographs of babies. Her career has been long and very successful. Anne grew up in the North of Australia on a cattle ranch. Her love of photography came with her teenage subscription to Life magazine. She loved the documentary work and how Life photographers made their pictures tell stories. She finally became serious about photography at age 25. Working at a television station, she found herself drawn to the magic of the darkroom located next to her office.
By 1983 Anne had married Kel Geddes and moved with him to Hong Kong for his work in television. She worked with Kel’s Pentax K1000 film camera and began creating her portfolio of infant pictures. She began photographing her baby daughters as her subjects for a Geddes family Christmas card. She photographed families in the area.
Anne, Kel and the girls returned to Melbourne, Australia in 1980. In an interview with My Modern Met, she said, “I first walked into a photography studio that everything fell in to place for me. I’m definitely a studio-based photographer. I love that concept of creating my own environment from scratch — and I love lighting.”
She did private portraits for the first 10 years of her career. She specialized in working with children. This experience taught her how to photograph children from lots of different ages. She notes, “With portraiture, it can be challenging to instantly connect with a child who considers you a stranger and to create an image of that child for their family to cherish forever puts an added pressure on that connection.”
Stories are important to Anne Geddes. “My proudest achievement has been the fact that I’ve been able to be a storyteller,” she explains. “Children are not only our hope for the future — by their very existence, they will be our future. And yet, we so often take them for granted or underestimate their essential importance. We need to take care of them now, educate, nurture, and love them now; teach them the values of harmony, love, understanding, tolerance and an appreciation of other cultures now. Because every newborn baby represents our eternal chance at new beginnings.”
Coffee table books, greeting cards and calendars were the foundation of Anne’s fortune and status in the 1990s. She has produced 20 books between 1996 and 2014. Images from the books became greeting cards and calendars. Anne would also shoot original work for her calendars.
In her My Modern Met interview, she talks about what it takes to produce the images for a calendar like 2015’s The Signs of the Zodiac (opening photo, bottom row, second photo from right,) “Most people don’t realize the costs involved in creating a series of 12 new images, which can be anywhere between $200,000 and $300,000. There’s a huge amount of pre-production involved before I even get to shooting in the studio.”
She continues saying, “For many years, I was able to create new images for greeting cards, calendars, and books because there was an end game — meaning royalties from these products helped fund my next collection of new images, and so on. But these days, once a new calendar is released, the images are instantly available on the internet for free — which is totally out of my control. Now how many movie houses would spend millions making a movie and then make it available for free? This is the plight of many creatives today, and I fear that a huge, invisible void of creativity exists for this exact reason.”
The Internet has meant that Anne would stay out of the studio and she has, starting in 2016. The demise of the publishing industry, paper products — coffee table books, calendars and greeting cards — which formed the foundation of her fortune left her without reliable work. Her business model used the royalties from previous work to fund her future products. As this income stream diminished the money to fund new projects just wasn’t available. An artnet.com article says:
“Naturally, Geddes has become wary of promoting herself online, aware of an image’s potential to go viral on the internet and the ease with which artists can have their material co-opted. There is little financial return for new work nowadays because people, she says, expect everything to be on the internet, and everything on the internet to be free.”
For a photographer who was, at one point, flown to Monaco to photograph the early years of its crown prince, it is simply not good business sense to just “go viral.”
Anne is a Global Advocate for [email protected], a United Nations Foundation whose goal is providing basic immunizations to children in the developing world. She spoke at the launch of [email protected] in Atlanta in 2012.
Anne has started a Patreon account to help raise money for her upcoming projects. She pledges that all the profits from a new calendar will be donated to the March Of Dimes.
Read about other influential photographers in On Photography.