Anne Geddes Studio
The work of Anne Geddes, a photographer known for her engaging pictures of babies, has become phenomenally popular in Australia, New Zealand, the United States, and other parts of the world. Geddes's pictures of chubby babies in various settings, such as gardens, flowerpots, and cabbages have appeared everywhere: in books, calendars, posters, and greeting cards. She and her husband, who is also her business manager, direct three companies established because of her work and are primarily responsible for the rapid growth of Cedco Publishing, a formerly small firm in San Rafael, California.
Born in Queensland, Australia in September of 1956, Geddes established herself as an excellent photographer without any formal training in the craft. She had a varied career as a young woman in such fields as fashion, television, and public relations before seriously embarking on a career in photography. She has lived in Hong Kong; Sydney and Melbourne, Australia; and Auckland, New Zealand. Today she lives with her husband Kel and their two daughters in Parnell, a suburb of Auckland.
As a young woman, Geddes simply decided she wanted to be a photographer and apprenticed herself to an experienced one. At first working in her native country, especially in Melbourne, she began to develop the distinctive style which would later make her famous. When her husband's job took him to Hong Kong, she set up her own business and began photographing babies, children, and whole families. She explained in an interview on her own web site that she simply loved babies and children and also wanted to develop a kind of photography that others had not done. She emphasized the importance of creating one's own style, with simplicity, in photographic images. "I never saw pictures I thought were real so I set out to do what I thought was real," said Geddes in a 1996 review.
Working exclusively with babies pose some challenges. In a story about Geddes on the American Booksellers' web site, she indicated that it is easy to use newborns up to four weeks for sleeping pictures; by five months, they are awake too much. Infants six to seven months old sit up, smile, and are cooperative; while older ones tend to crawl or walk away. At any rate, she prefers working with all of her subjects in the mornings to avoid naptimes. She will also include several babies in a photo session. One time she assembled and photographed 123 babies, each nestled in a flowerpot.
After moving to New Zealand in 1986 with her family, she established her first real studio near Auckland. She was good at promoting her work, setting up exhibitions wherever she could and soon became well known for her photographic specialty. Moving away from strictly portraiture, she produced the "Cabbage Kids" calendar, which was associated with the Child Protection Trust in New Zealand, and found a ready market for these charming pictures. By 1991, her husband had decided to quit his job as a TV program director to run three companies associated with his wife's photography. The Especially Kids Company is related to her studio work; Next Generation Enterprises produces calendars and datebooks; and Kel Geddes Management does marketing and promotion.
Geddes's popularity attracted the attention of a national magazine, significantly increasing her clientele and her name recognition. She was invited to join the New Zealand Institute of Professional Photographers in 1990 (NZIPP), an organization which presented her with several awards in 1992. Geddes was the first woman to receive an honorary fellowship from NZIPP for her contributions to photography. These included the "Commercial Photographer of the Year" and "Portrait Wedding Photographer of the Year" awards. In 1997, she was asked to give the keynote speech at the convention of the Professional Photographers of America (PPA) in Las Vegas and was awarded a lifetime membership in that organization.
In 1997, Geddes produced Down in the Garden, which quickly became a bestseller. The book is full of humorous gardening advice and pictures of babies in garden settings. Her stylist, Dawn McGowan, created unusual costumes for the babies, portraying them as flowers, caterpillars, butterflies, and the like. One particularly memorable fold-out section features baby "earthworms" in a network of underground tunnels. After two and one-half years of work on the project, Geddes promoted the book in a nine-city tour across America. Three spin-off books, Down in the Garden Book of Days, Down in the Garden Addresses, and Down in the Garden Birthdays soon followed.
Geddes has also become involved with Target, a department store in the United States, in a series of commercials based on her work. According to an article on Geddes's web site, Kel Geddes said that the campaign focused on Target's own interest in the family; one particular commercial focused on Target's charitable contributions.
Chronology: Anne Geddes
1986: Moved to New Zealand.
1990: Accepted into New Zealand Institute of Professional Photographers (NZIPP).
1991: Founded Next Generation Enterprises Ltd.
1992: Achieved "Master of Photography" designation from NZIPP.
1993: Won six gold and five silver merits at AGFA/NZIPP competition.
1996: Down in the Garden became top seller among giftbooks.
1997: Awarded honorary fellowship for services to photography in New Zealand by NZIPP.
1997: Given lifetime membership in the Professional Photographers of America.
1997: Cedco Publishing reported 250 percent increase in sales since 1996 because of Geddes's work.
Geddes has completely departed from her earlier interest in portraiture and is focusing her attention on calendars, greeting cards, and books. Geddes's work has also appeared in a number of well-known publications, such as Time, People, Life, and PPA Magazine. Geddes intends to produce a book of black-and-white photographs, as well as a figurine collection for Enesco (maker of the popular Precious Moments and Cherished Teddies collections).
Social and Economic Impact
Since 1996, Cedco Publishing Company, a once rather small firm in California, has substantially grown, largely because it has Geddes as a client. The company reported a 250 percent sales increase between fiscal 1996 and fiscal 1997. Geddes's first full-length book, Down in the Garden, was the top-selling gift book in the United States in 1996, remaining on the bestseller list for more than a year. Geddes appeared on the Oprah Winfrey show and several other nationally broadcast talk shows to promote the book. By 1998 it was in its 11th printing, and it has been translated into eight languages. Some of the many other Geddes books published by Cedco include Monday's Child, Shapes, Baby Names Keepsake, Twelve Days of Christmas Book, Woodland Fairy Journal, and several board books for children.
In the fall of 1997, Cedco, which also handles licenses for Star Wars, Dilbert, and World Wildlife Fund products, moved to larger offices. According to an article in Publishers Weekly, Paul Kelly, publisher and CEO, asserted that the company, previously known mostly for its calendar collection, expects to be a premium gift illustration book company. The Geddes product line—which includes greeting cards, calendars, stationery, prints, T-shirts, puzzles, and children's books—appeals to a large variety of people and has literally turned the company around. In 1998, Cedco employed over 50 people.
Geddes has contributed to a variety of charities, particularly those involving prevention of child abuse. She was involved in forming the Child Protection Trust in New Zealand, has worked with anti-child abuse causes in Australia, Britain and the United States, and donates $.75 from each calendar sold to the KEMPE Foundation in Colorado. "I feel that when you are successful you have a responsibility to give back," Geddes has repeatedly said. She has given more than $350,000 to child abuse prevention since 1992.
Sources of Information
Contact at: Anne Geddes Studio
2 York St., Parnell
Auckland, New Zealand
Business Phone: 64 9 375 2560
Anne Geddes Biography. Anne Geddes Studio web site. Available from http://www.annegeddes.com.
"Baby Sitters: Anne Geddes Does Wonders with Minor Models and a Fertile Imagination." People Weekly, 30 September 1996.
Brady, Kim. "The Magical World of Anne Geddes." Anne Geddes Studio web site. Available from http://www.annegeddes.com.
Castellitto, Linda M. "You Must Have Been a Beautiful Baby . . . ." American Booksellers Association Bookweb. Available from http://www.2.bookweb.org/reading/features.
"Enesco, Anne Geddes Sign Licensing Pact." HFN, the Weekly Newspaper for the Home Furnishing Network, 20 April 1998.
Fuerstein, Adam. "Marking Off Calendar Success One Day at a Time: Licensing Deal with Hot Photographer Puts Cedco on the Fast Track." San Francisco Business Times, 31 January 1997.
Outerbridge, Laura. "Focus on Small Subjects Reaps Huge Reward." Insight on the News, 26 June 1995.
Publishers Weekly, 21 July 1997.
Swanezy, Sue. "An Interview with Anne Geddes." Anne Geddes Studio web site. Available from http://www.annegeddes.com.
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