Facts for Babies: Visual Experiments at the Intersection of Art, Science and Consumerism in Education


  • Karin Priem University of Luxembourg




Photography, Visual observation, Child psychology, Progressive education, Consumerism.


The paper takes as its point of departure a particular photography book, The First Picture Book: Everyday Things for Babies, first published in 1930 and aimed at young children. The book’s origins can be traced back to a collaboration between Edward Steichen, his daughter Mary Steichen Calderone, and the Bureau of Educational Experiments. Founded in New York in 1916, the latter focused its work on developmental child psychology and progressive educational practices. The paper analyses how the materiality of things and artefacts, sensory vision, and science-based concepts of child development were forming a conceptual alliance with photography as a mode of ‘objective’ display. In addition, it explores how photographic techniques became a tool to foster new ways of seeing within the domain of education while at the same time aiming at societal transformation.


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Author Biography

Karin Priem, University of Luxembourg

Karin Priem is professor of history of education. She has been presidentof the German History of Education Association (2007-2011) and is co-editorof the book series Beiträge zur Historischen Bildungsforschung (Böhlau,Cologne) and of the Jahrbuch für Historische Bildungsforschung (Klinkhardt,Bad Heilbrunn). Karin Priem specializes in the social and cultural history ofeducation with an emphasis on the visual, material and media history of education,the history of ideas in education, cultural learning and citizenship,and entrepreneurship and education. In her research she focuses on the materialand cultural facets of socio-educational transformations while adoptingcross-national, multicultural and interdisciplinary perspectives. Her researchmethodology builds on cultural sociology, cultural anthropology, visual studies,material culture studies, epistemology, and phenomenology.