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Anne Geddes’ search for her iconic Kiwi babies

The acclaimed photographer has a special wish for her 60th birthday.

Looking at recent photos of world-renowned photographer Anne Geddes, it’s next to impossible to believe that she’s just turned 60.

But speaking to The Weekly from her base in New York City, Anne assures us she did indeed celebrate the milestone, and while she insists there is no secret to her youthful appearance – “you should see me first thing in the morning,” she chuckles in her Australian accent – she has done something marvellous to mark the birthday.

“All of these years, I’ve said that when I turned 60, I’d do a project on where all of the babies that featured in my photos are now – and that’s what we’re doing!”

Baby, Look at You Now is an appeal by Anne to all of the children she’s shot over the years to get in touch and send through photos of themselves today – and she’s been inundated, much to her delight.

And Anne, who moved to New Zealand from Australia in 1988 with husband Kel and her two daughters, Stephanie and Kelly, says many of the babies in her most iconic images are Kiwis.

“It was so nice to get that Kiwi spirit out into the world,” she tells.

“I consider myself a Kiwi-Australian – I just don’t have the Kiwi accent! I was awarded the New Zealand Order of Merit, which was a huge honour. I was very touched by that. I worked in New Zealand for 18 years, it’s where it all began.”

When her husband Kel moved to Auckland to help get TV3 off the ground in the late ‘80s, Anne decided to set up her first studio in Auckland’s Newmarket, doing portraiture.

“Two sittings a day, five days a week, focusing on children,” she remembers.

“It’s quite stressful! Someone brings you a two-year-old who’s having a bad day, but you’ve still got to produce something. But then I decided that I would take one day, once a month, where I wasn’t answerable to anyone. And one of my most iconic images – the Cabbage Kids – was one of my first photos during that time.”

After a local magazine ran one of Anne’s shots, the phone started ringing off the hook – and it hasn’t really stopped since, with Anne just finishing her 2017 calendar, which depicts the signs of the zodiac.

“It was a wonderful 18 years in New Zealand,” says Anne. “A lot of my body of work was shot there and I was so happy to work there for so many years.“

Now, she’s happy to be reliving those years through Baby, Look at You Now, and is relishing some of the stories she’s being told by those that were depicted.

“There are some really funny ones – a baby called Kayla was a water lily, she was in one of the calendars. A few years on when she was about five or six, the producers of Friends rang up and asked if they could use the image in the show.

“So little Kayla went to school the day after she saw the episode and told everyone that she was on Friends the night before – and no-one believed her!”

Another highlight was when a young woman who was styled as a sparrow in a bird bath got in touch.

“That was Tyla Nathan-Wong – she just won silver at the Rio Olympics as part of the New Zealand women’s sevens team!” exclaims Anne. “I’m like a proud parent who’s standing back and going, ‘Wow.’ It’s amazing to think that I was at the beginning of their lives and now I’m seeing what they’ve achieved.”

Tyla Nathan-Wong was an Anne Geddes baby – a sparrow in a bird bath – before she became a Sevens champ.

Along with the appeal, Anne had a low-key celebration on September 13 to mark her 60th, after making “a bit of a fuss” when she turned 40 and 50.

“These days, I find that the older I get, the less I need,” she explains. “It’s more experiences. It all sounds clichéd, but I’d like to have a nice day, go somewhere nice for dinner and not make a big deal.”

However, she does admit to one big dream – returning to New Zealand to photograph her babies again, as adults.

“I have to get someone to sponsor it, but I’d love to come over for a month in a studio and bring in these gorgeous young people!

“I’m still absolutely mesmerised by still imagery. I’m still convinced that babies change lives, with everything they represent. It’s even more current in these days, with all the horrible things happening in the world. Every time a child is born, there is a sense of renewal, that we can try and make things better.

“And if people still smile when they see my photos, then it’s still working!”

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