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Constance Bannister, at 92; known for her baby photos

WOODBURY, N.Y. -- Constance Bannister, whose photographs of babies on calendars, advertisements, and books reached a worldwide audience in the 1940s and 1950s, died Wednesday at a nursing home at age 92, said her daughter Lynda Hatcher.

Ms. Bannister, the second of 17 children, was inspired toward baby pictures by her 15 younger siblings, Hatcher said.

''She wasn't trying to find movie-star babies or anything, just what caught her eye," Hatcher said. ''She would go into Central Park or into a grocery store and see a baby she liked and take the picture." Ms. Bannister also used her two daughters as models, said Hatcher, of East Northport.

Ms. Bannister said she had more than 100,000 shots of babies, her daughter said. ''I have them, but I haven't counted them," she said.

Many of the photos were published in humor books, paired with amusing captions written by Ms. 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, ''The latest five-year plan is a little behind."

Born in Ashland City, Tenn., Ms. Bannister came to New York City as a teenager and studied photography after receiving a camera from a boyfriend. Her first job was with the Associated Press, where she made $40 a week as a society photographer in Palm Beach, Fla., in 1937 and 1938.

She returned to New York, opened a studio on Central Park South, and became a photographer of Broadway plays, ballet companies, and the Ice Capades.

Ms. Bannister gradually focused on babies, and ''Bannister Babies" helped sell war bonds for 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.

Besides her daughter, Ms. Bannister leaves her third husband, Joseph Hatcher of Laurel Hollow; another daughter, Lisa Kelley of Laurel Hollow; and six grandchildren.

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