Esther Bubley’s World of Children in Photographs preface;
‘These pictures were made for a various reasons: magazine assignments, documentary projects, advertisements, and family albums. I have known some of these children over long periods of time, others for only a few minutes. Regardless of how long I have known them, my way of photographing children (and other people) usually follows a certain pattern. All children like to have their pictures taken. Even tiny babies are fascinated with shiny lenses and flashing lights. Older children, while they enjoy posing, have unfortunately often been conditioned to stand still before a camera and smile into the lens. Thus, posing children is not a problem; getting them not to pose is.
This is not to be confused with the illusion that they will be unaware of the camera. This is how I work. First, since on a job I usually am draped with cameras and other photographic gear, I can hardly expect to go unnoticed; I explain who I am, what I am doing, and why. I let the children look at, and sometimes through the cameras. I also explain that they don’t have to look at the camera – in fact, they are to pretend they don’t know I’m there – and that I may ask them to do some things more than once. Then I start exposing lots of film so that they get used to the cameras constantly clicking away. I often let the children tell me what they want to do, and they can be wildly inventive and outrageously amusing. If I need one particular shot, as for an ad, I try to create a situation in which the child can react spontaneously.
Except for very young children, or a very emotional situation, I don’t think children ever forget that a camera is looking at them. Most of them are just talented actors. Once incident in particular convinced me of this. I was taking pictures of a group that was enthusiastically involved in a school project. So that no one would feel neglected, I pointed my camera at each child in turn. Of course most of the pictures I took were of a few particularly animated and expressive children. when I finished and was packing up my equipment, a youngster, who like all the rest had seemed deeply engrossed in the project, came up and demanded to know why I had taken only one picture of him and ten of a friend. I protested that I had taken many pictures of each child. He answered, “oh, no! I was counting the clicks.”‘