His “Pitty Itty Picture”
By MAX MERRYMAN
“Yes, it’s the very first time he ever had his photograph taken, so, of course, we want to get the very best picture possible, and —no, grandma; I don’t think, after all, that we’d better try to have it taken with his little rattle in hand. Do you, Aunt Harriet? You see, he would be apt to want to shake the rattle at the very moment when the photographer wants him to be perfectly still; but I don’t believe we can get him to keep perfectly still for ten seconds. He is really the most active child I ever saw, Mr. Photographer. He doesn’t even lie still in his sleep. I really think that it is nervousness more than anything else. The doctor says that the child is perfectly well. In fact, I never saw a healthier child. He has never been sick a minute, and he is six months old today: I didn’t want his photograph taken any earlier than that, for I think that a baby hardly ever has much expression until he is about six months old, although every one says that our little Reginald is different from most babies in that respect. His Aunt Lucy was saying yesterday that he had the most intelligent expression of any—oh! I want several negatives taken, and see which one I like best. His grandma — that is, my mother here — wants one just head and shoulders; and his other grandma is very anxious to have a full figure, with him lying on a pillow we brought with us. His Aunt Lucy wants us to try and get a profile of him for her, for she says he has really a remarkable profile for a child of his age; and I want one picture with him in my arms, and his dear little cheek cuddled up to mine; and then we think it would be nice to have him and his two grandmas taken together; and I want one with him and my mother and myself all in it, showing three generations. I think that—better not fuss with his hair, grandma. Those little curls are about right, and I hope they will show good in the picture. So many people rave over his hair. My sister has a baby boy, ten months old, and he hasn’t a third as much hair as our baby has; but then he has never been real well, and he weighs a pound less than our baby, and—yes; we will be ready in just a few minutes. We want to slip on his best dress. We brought it with us in a box, so that it wouldn’t be all mussed up by him wearing it. Then we brought his best little cap, that his Aunt Jennie sent him from out West, and we want one taken with it on to send to her. This odd little rattle we brought is one his grandma had when she was a baby, and she thinks it would be nice to have it in his hand when it is taken. I am expecting his father in every minute. He said that he would meet us here at—here he is now! Here we are, papa, baby and all, and—see him hold out his little hands to his papa! He did that when he was only four months and one week old, and a friend of mine has a baby, eight months old, that has never yet held out its hands to any one. I want one photograph with the baby in his father’s arms, and—be careful, papa! Don’t get the child excited, or it will be so hard to get him still for his picture. The moment he sees his father he wants to romp and play. He is so full of vitality and—no, Aunt Kitty, I don’t believe that we’d better all go into the operating-room with him. I think that if his papa and his two grandmas and I go it will be enough. Too many might distract him and make it hard to keep him still. Is your father coming in, papa? You know, he said when he was over to the house last night that perhaps he would try to come in, and we thought that maybe we would have him and you and the baby taken together, as you all have the same name. I do think that it is nice to hand down a family name from one generation to another, and—yes, we will be ready in just a moment, as soon as—now, mamma’s baby is going to have his own, owney, itty picture taken, so he is, and he must be ever and ever so—what? Baby isn’t going to cry! Oh, ray, my! Tut, tut, tut! He won’t cry long. He never does. A cousin of mine has a baby that will cry all night, but, of course, the poor child isn’t well. I don’t think that well babies ever cry much, and I know that—papa, you’d better step out of sight until I get him ready. He wants to go to you when you are around. I do hope that the pictures will come out good. You see, we want to have some of them enlarged if they are good, and, as I say, it is his first photograph, and—baby doin’ to have his own, owney, pitty itty picture taken—yes, he is! The picture man will show baby itty bird—yes, he will! Baby must be good. Hand me a safety-pin, some one. Have you his little comb, grandma? Aunty Lou, supposing you moisten a corner of my handkerchief with water. There is a tiny smooch on one cheek. There, I think he is about ready. I do hope the picture will come out good! We mean to have more taken on his first birthday, and every birthday after that, and—no, papa, I’d better carry him into the operating-room. Tome, baby, and have his owney, own, pitty itty picture taken!”
Caricature; wit and humor of a nation in picture, song, and story, 1911
Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: One can only pity the unhappy “Mr Photographer.” Mrs Daffodil previously wrote on the demanding “tin-type girls” who made his life a misery.
One photographer confessed to a reporter that he found infants to be trying subjects.
The artist was a heavy-eyed man; his hair was unkempt, his scarf was disarranged, and his coat-sleeves were turned up. He looked weary.
“I have just been attempting to fix a baby’s attention,” he said, in an explanatory tone, “by throwing handsprings behind the camera. When I showed the negative to the mother she made the inevitable observation that the face lacked expression. Can you put expression on the surface of a lump of damp putty?”
“Is it easier to photograph dogs than babies?”
“Oh, a thousand times. You can fix a dog’s attention and hold it for a time without difficulty. Then, dogs faces are more or less expressive. None of them has the look of stupidity that the average baby wears except the pug.
Pug dogs, by the way, are the easiest to take. All you have to do is to put them in front of the camera and they go to sleep at once. The most difficult dog I ever struggled with was an Italian greyhound. It was a delicate and extremely sensitive little creature, and endowed with almost human intelligence. It couldn’t keep its shadowy legs still half a second to save its life. We worked half a day, and succeeded at length in making a picture that was half satisfactory.’
“Do you photograph many dogs?”
“About 200 a year. Though work is done by a few specialists. The big photographers won’t bother with dogs.” New York Sun.
The Daily Globe [St. Paul MN] 3 January 1884: p. 3
Mrs Daffodil invites you to join her on the curiously named “Face-book,” where you will find a feast of fashion hints, fads and fancies, and historical anecdotes
You may read about a sentimental succubus, a vengeful seamstress’s ghost, Victorian mourning gone horribly wrong, and, of course, Mrs Daffodil’s efficient tidying up after a distasteful decapitation in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales.