The National Media Museum in Bradford has just opened a new exhibition exploring how babies have been represented through photography. Given my current interest in family snapshots and childhood photographs, I found it a fascinating exhibition. It showed how many of our images of children are ‘idealised’ – from Victorian times when any photograph had to present the baby perfectly dressed and presented – to today’s glossy images of celebrities with baby-accessory. Images of the Royal Family showed how these formal photographs created a ‘template’ for other families to use when photographing their own families. There were images of babies displayed in ‘baby pageants’ wearing frocks and swimsuits costing hundreds of dollars, and most disturbingly of all, photo-enhanced to ‘pluck’ eyebrows and add lipstick. All of this was offset by some wonderful examples of photo-realism, pictures taken in photo-documentary style and showing families bringing children up in extreme poverty, as well as photographs of new mothers standing in hospital corridors with their tiny purple babies, looking honest and amazing but not at all cute.
All in all well worth a visit if you are in the area. The website has some images from the exhibition as a taster.