In a child’s life, “how early do important things happen?” asked child psychoanalyst D.W.Winnicott in 1945. A number of his colleagues believed that the camera might provide an answer to that question. Katie Joice explores the history of using film as a means of deciphering the mother-infant relationship.

You can read Katie’s journal article on this topic here:

Katie Joice
Production Date


After World War II, a new explanatory model for mental illness emerged within the ‘psy’ sciences. The traumas of infancy and early childhood gained new importance, and the relationship between mother and baby came under particular scrutiny. In order to make infant experience legible, psychiatrists and psychoanalysts began to use the medium of film to analyse babies’ gestures and expressions, and to classify mothering styles into healthy or pathological types. Hidden Persuaders researchers Katie Joice and Ian Magor describe the history of this important, but contentious, clinical practice in this visual essay.

About the filmmakers

Katie Joice is a historian of the ‘psy’ sciences. Her current research examines the use of visual methodologies in postwar child psychoanalysis and child psychiatry. Ian Magor has created and edited numerous video essays and his work can be viewed here.

Read more about visual culture and child observation on the Hidden Persuaders blog