Baby love: Anne Geddes on her 30-year career

Updated 7:33 PM ET, Thu May 11, 2017

Chat with us in Facebook Messenger. Find out what's happening in the world as it unfolds.

(CNN)For every baby she wants in a photo, Anne Geddes makes sure she always has at least three in studio. Just in case.

"Babies don't have any respect for photographers, and rightly so," she jokes.
Geddes is world-famous for her adorable images of young children, but in her studio the baby is always the boss.
"Everything needs to revolve around them," she said. "Everything is prepared the day before. ... And when I shoot -- and I always shoot in the morning, because babies tend to be better in the morning -- then as soon as they come in it's all about them and it's all about the parents."
Tiny Maneesha is held in the palm of a man's hand in this Anne Geddes photo from 1993.
Geddes has been at this for 30 years now, perfecting her craft. Even if you don't recognize her name, chances are you've still seen her work somewhere. It's been published in more than 80 countries. Her 1996 book, "Down in the Garden," was a New York Times best-seller and made her a star. Her annual calendar is now in its 26th year.
Nature is a common theme. In one photo, a baby is dressed in a koala costume, sitting inside a prop made to look like a tree. In another, sleeping babies resemble peas in a pod.
Other photos take a simpler approach, focusing on a baby's feet or just how small a baby is inside someone else's hand.
"Babies are my inspiration because of everything they represent," Geddes said. "They change lives. The minute your baby's born, you're a dad or you're a mother. And they create families and they bring so much joy to the world.
"Of course they're cute and they can be funny and all of that sort of thing, but more importantly they represent the human race's eternal chance at new beginnings."
Angelina, 3 weeks old, dressed as a koala in 2012.
Geddes' newest coffee-table book, "Small World," is a retrospective of her entire career. Many of the photos inside have never been published.
"I turned 60 last September," she said. "It seemed like an opportune time to be going back over my archives, which I did for 12 months."
Photographer Anne Geddes
"Small World" starts with photos of pregnancy and birth before advancing to photos of newborns and then infants and toddlers. Some of the photos come from her earliest years in photography, when she was running a private portrait studio in New Zealand.
"I first picked up a camera when I was 25," she said. "I was born in the north of Australia, and when I was in school in the '60s and '70s, there were no photography courses where I was. It just never really occurred to me that I could be a photographer.
"In my teens, I always loved Life magazine when it was in its heyday. I was just fascinated with the way that photojournalists and portrait photographers were able to raise a story with just their images. And I loved images of people. I guess maybe it comes from the fact that I have very few images of myself as a young child."
Children are peas in a pod in this Geddes photo from 1995.
When she started her career, Geddes was always looking for something fresh and something authentic.
"The few photographs that I did have of myself as a child were in portrait studios back in those times where, you know, your mother would dress you up in your Sunday best and you'd be sitting there holding a ball in your lap, not looking like you really want to be there at all," she laughed. "You can't really see yourself in (the photos)."
Geddes encouraged parents to let go and allow their child's personality to shine through.
"I would say to parents, 'Don't worry too much about if they want to wear odd socks or they don't want to wear any socks.' "
Her creativity caught the eye of a popular greeting-card company in New Zealand. The calendars came soon after. And then the books.
Joshua, a 4-month-old in Auckland, New Zealand, hangs from a hook in 1990. Geddes said this was an old-fashioned way of weighing babies.
When looking at Geddes' photos, you can't help but smile. But there's also a serious tone to her work as well.
In recent years, she's had a chance to do some cause-related shoots, whether it's focusing on the survivors of meningococcal disease or helping the March of Dimes raise awareness about premature births. And distressed children in Syria and other war zones have also caught her attention.
"We all have a responsibility to guide these babies as we grow," she said. "We're all born with a common sensibility. There's only goodness around babies; it's what happens to them as their life develops that can go terribly wrong or right."
Anne Geddes is an Australian-born photographer based in New York. Her latest book, "Small World," is available through Taschen. You can follow her on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.