Constance Bannister, 92; Photographer Focused on Thousands of Baby Pictures
Constance Bannister, whose photographs of babies for calendars, advertisements and books reached a worldwide audience in the 1940s and ‘50s, died Wednesday at a nursing home in Woodbury, N.Y., her daughter, Lynda Hatcher, said. She was 92.
Bannister, who lived in Laurel Hollow on Long Island, was the second of 17 children and was inspired to take baby pictures by her 15 younger siblings, Hatcher said.
Bannister said she had taken more than 100,000 shots of babies, her daughter said.
Many of the photos were published in humor books, paired with amusing captions written by Bannister to fit the baby’s expression. For example, in “We Were Spies Behind the Iron Curtain,” a book satirizing the Soviet Union, a bare-bottomed baby looks over its shoulder and says, “Latest five-year plan is a little behind.”
Born Constance Louise Gibbs in 1913 in Ashland City, Tenn., Bannister came to New York City as a teenager and studied photography after receiving a camera from a boyfriend. Her first job was with Associated Press, where she earned $40 a week as a society photographer in Palm Beach, Fla., in 1937 and 1938.
She returned to New York, opened a studio and became a photographer of Broadway plays, ballet companies and the Ice Capades.
Bannister gradually shifted her focus to babies, and “Bannister Babies” helped sell war bonds during World War II. The books of babies and captions sold well and were featured on several television shows.
The books often focused on a topical subject, as in “Senator, I’m Glad You Asked Me That,” a political satire.
In recent years, Bannister had been trying to locate “Bannister Babies” from years ago whose photographs she had taken, some of which can be viewed at www.constancebannister.com.