Ruta Saksens Kalmane
Updated: Feb 28
On daily basis I have a wonderful opportunity to go through a bunch of photography books for children with my little baby boy (he certainly has developed his own taste and opinion about which ones are worth seeing a million times per day and which ones are better to be left in the shelf).
I would like to bring in the spotlight Edward Steichen's photographs taken in 1930s for 'The First Picture Book, Everyday Things For Babies'. At the first glance it might seem like this book is outdated, but actually many of the photographs represent the same daily objects for babies that are still used by and around babies still today, while some other objects certainly might require some time to be explained what they are.
The cover and photographs by Edward Steichen in the ‘The First Picture Book: Everyday Things For Babies’ (1930) book
What is peculiar about the book is Mary Steichen Calderone's suggestion in the preface (1930: 3):
"It is unwise for a baby to get his first experience of an object through the picturization of it. This may lead to a fantasy habit, or the formation of an incompleted image of that object, even when this is finally met."
Needless to say that this assumption would never work in today's reality where children are seeing many objects for the first time through visual media on daily basis, especially television.
In overall, the book is a lovely companion to a baby (at least my baby finds it just as fascinating as contemporary photography books for babies).
STEICHEN CALDERONE, Mary, STEICHEN, Edward and UPDIKE, John. 1991. ‘The First Picture Book: Everyday Things for Babies’. New York: Meridian Printing.