Anne Geddes--Secret Baby Hater?
For those of you who are unfamiliar with Anne Geddes' work, she is famous for dressing babies up in flower costumes and putting them in flowerpots and other surroundings, then taking pictures of them. She also has dressed them as snails, fairies, bears, and even food in a bowl. (You can see some examples here.) I don't like her art. It makes babies into just so much furniture.
For her latest book, perhaps meaningfully titled Pure, she has extended her baby art into a whole new area of uneasy weirdness. Here are some examples: She wrapped a baby and a woman in a tight mesh to make it look as though the baby was still in the woman's womb, though the message conveyed is more one of the devouring mother who cannot let her baby free. She surrounded a baby with weird stuff to simulate a womb, ending up with the effect that the baby, instead of looking enclosed in a mother's comforting warmth, looks isolated, lost, alone and uncared for. She hung babies like so many sacks of cottage cheese in knotted cheesecloth sacks on a line, giving the impression that babies are just an assembly-line object, plenty more where those came from, and all of them alike, none unique, no need to worry about individuals.
She has an entire line of products based on both her earlier and her latest work—books, posters, calendars, clothing, plush toys, gift wraps with her images on it, and whatever one can put the images on. She has also influenced a whole crowd of women who should know better.
Ms. Geddes is undoubtedly a gifted photographer and a canny marketer. And judging by her success, many people find her work to be adorable and cute. I just have to wonder whether these are the same people who found The Nanny Diaries "hilarious," "funny," and "a light read." Do they actually look at what they are praising?
In short, I am and have always been disturbed by what this woman does with babies. Her photographs of babies shows them constricted, bound, alone, apart from any kind of loving family context, altered into something alien and antithetical to what babies are all about. In short, she makes them into objects. Some might say that they are objects of art and that that is her message, but I would disagree.
Babies are Human Beings
Babies are not objects. They are not flowers, they are not fruit, they are not bears or bees or cabbages. They should not be wearing costumes at that age, nor do they need to be restricted and forced back into the womb. They have been born. It is time to deal with them as the spirits that they are, inhabiting small human bodies. They have an awareness that may not be recognizable to us, but it is there all the same. Furthermore, they are spirits who are only just trying to figure out who and what they are and what their role in life on this world is to be; they do not need any complications.
Therefore, to dress a baby in a costume that makes it into a butterfly or a bear or some other non-baby thing gives the baby a confusing message, saying that it is something other than human. Yes, when a child is older and able to hold a conversation about "dress up," then the child is ready to have fun with different costumes. But infants are too young for this kind of play.
And after all, who is the dressing up for? If a baby is too young to make the choice (let alone to appreciate the "fun"), then it is clearly not done for the baby. So it is for the parents' benefit. But what does that say about how the parent views the child and that child's rights? What other kinds of decisions will a parent make for that child as it grows that the parent is not entitled to make? How can a parent enjoy forcing this kind of weirdness on their children? (And I won't even mention the proud parents and grandparents who flaunt their crimes by sending in pictures to magazines.)
It is disturbing to me that such a person as Ms. Geddes can be so successful. That shows that there are a lot of people buying her art who can at best be described as unconscious and not paying attention to what they are supporting (i.e., they only look at the surface of things and don't look underneath), or who, worse yet, agree with the kind of controlling, children-as-owned-objects attitude conveyed in Ms. Geddes' art.
Not Just Babies
When Ms. Geddes works with older children, her art is just as disturbing. For example, she has a photo of four naked children coated with red clay (with their eyes closed), clutching each other for comfort as though some horrible holocaust has occurred and they are being turned into earth. What is she trying to say here? Why on earth would she create such an image?
In another image, a very little boy and girl are dressed as a bride and groom kissing each other, which type of image I have always found particularly disturbing and inappropriate. It is one thing, and quite normal and healthy, for a little girl at a certain age to want to dress up as a princess or a bride and pretend that she is getting married; it is entirely another thing when adults get involved and want to dress very little boys and girls as brides and grooms interacting with each other by kissing or such. One must ask the question, "Are adults who do that sort of thing inappropriately interested in the children in those roles?" I am not saying that Ms. Geddes herself is that kind of person, but would it be too much of a stretch to call what she does child porn?
And, as a psychic who has a good talent for "reading" people from their photographs, based on my opinion of what her work represents, I will say that although she is outwardly a beautiful woman, I would never want my own daughter anywhere near her.