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Grant Romer, on:
photographs of children

Grant Romer Q: What did they do in order to take photographs of children, to get the child to hold still?

Well, there's two agendas. One is to hold still, and one is to look good. And the original "watch the birdie" idea goes back to that time in which they had little mechanical whistles in which they would make little brass bird twitter suddenly, and make the child's focus on it, that look of amazement on the child's face. So all of the business of posing the adult had to be taken care of–pose, lighting–and then immobilization during the 6 seconds of exposure, and the expression issue. And certain tricks they resorted to do that. Many times, people don't realize that there's other people in the studio when you're having your portrait made, and particularly with children. So you see a photograph of a child, there's usually Mama or Papa or somebody going, "Oh, hold still," or you know. And very frequently you'll see them in the picture. There'll be the arm of a parent. There's a cloth behind the child. Leaving the child alone in front of the camera caused anxiety in the child, particularly when you were being told, "Hold still," and you're facing a guy with a black cloth and a big box that looks more like a combination of cannon and mirror than it does anything else. So it was a real challenge to photographers to make a good portrait of a child. And really, you don't see many really very good portraits. And it's still a problem today. If you take your child to the mall and get a quick portrait of them made, you'll see, lots of them are very uncomplimentary to the child, really. And you can imagine if you had longer exposures to confront.

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