Born in 1913 in Ashland City, Tennessee, Constance Bannister moved to New York City in the 1930's where she enrolled in the School of Modern Photography. Her first job was as a society photographer for the Associated Press in Palm Beach Florida. Upon her return to New York she opened a studio at 24 Central Park South. Working for the Chicago Tribune, Bannister began to photograph all the Broadway Plays going on the road to Chicago . She was also the photographer for the New York City Ballet and the Ice Capades. She also did many human interest covers in Photography, on Woman's Day, Country Gentlemen, McCalls, Look and many other leading magazines during that period. Constance married Joseph Bannister in 1957 and together they had two daughters, Lynda and Lisa.
Bannister began photographing babies, children, cats and dogs but soon her focus became baby photography. Constance Bannister has taken more than 100,000 pictures of the younger generation which have brought her worldwide recognition. Bannister Babies, photographs of children usually accompanied by amusing captions became her signature. These photos were featured in books, magazines, pamphlets, calendars, billboards, and posters.
In 1941, Constance illustrated a story Glamour Goes to War (Saturday Evening Post 11/29/1941). The editor thought it a cute idea to print a bathing suit picture of Miss Bannister, under the title Not Unglamorous Herself - as a result of which she became a 'Pin-up Girl' for the Omendy Bey aircraft carrier, with hundreds (1750) of fans with mail requesting 8x10's of Miss Bannister.
During the Second World War, the Bannister Baby Posters helped sell War Bonds and contributed her service to USO by doing camera stories. No one thought of 'pin-up babies' until Miss Bannister tried a few. One of her baby pictures which had been reproduced in a national magazine was found in the possession of a German soldier captured by the U.S. infantry group. The March of Time featured the incident in one of its films, and thereafter, Miss Bannister was firmly established as a baby photographer. Bannister baby pictures have appeared on TV, Garry Moore Show, Perry Como Show, Frank Sinatra Show, Steve Allen Show, Ernie Kovacs Show, Jack Parr Show and The Joey Bishop Show. Her baby pictures have appeared so frequently and with such wide distribution that the name 'Constance Bannister' had become synonymous with babies. Jack Parr titled her 'Constance Bannister-World's Most Famous Baby Photographer.' Babies by Bannister have been printed in ad-campaigns in many different languages and have travelled the world many times. Her comic strip Baby Banters was a popular syndicated feature for six years.
Books in which Bannister's work has feature are the following: E.F. Dutton's A Child's Grace (1945) for two years Victor Borge devoted segments of his special Christmas TV Show, in which he showed pictures; Simon and Schuster's The Baby (1950) Published in eight languages, this book was on the bestseller list for two years. Pictures from this book were a double page features story in Life Magazine; a political satire Senator, I'm Glad You Asked Me That (1950); a satire on Russia We Were Spies Behind The Iron Curtain (1953); The Great Joe Stalin What (1954) printed in ten languages and was call very effective against communism; and Rand McNally's Puppy and Me (1955) published for children two to six years of age. Between 1950 and 1970 Constance Bannister published the following books: How I Photograph Babies and Pets (1958) created for General Electric Company; Visiting Hours Are Over - a nurse satire; What to Expect when your Expecting; It Tickles - U.S. Steel; Holly Deadlock - a satire on marriage; I Love You Truly - a satire on before marriage; Jr. Executive; Kiddie Capers; What's Cookin Baby?; and The Little Philosopher.
Constance Bannister died on 17 August 2005 but her legacy lives on. Remember her and her advice: "Never Stop Smiling and Laugh Whenever You Can."
BANNISTER, CONSTANCE How I Photographed Babies 1958 General Electric Company