Evan Kafka takes babies very seriously. The photographer, who is known for his expressive portraits of celebrities such as Michael Stipe and Chevy Chase, says the best way to photograph them is not to get cute; but instead to act like they are, in a sense, adults.

“I don’t shoot it any different from how I would an adult,” Kafka tells TIME. “Except that I am on the floor all day! The way I shoot, I’ve got about eight lights from all different angles at once.”

For this week’s cover, TIME asked Kafka to photograph the tots to represent advances on the frontiers of life extension. The shoot saw him snap 12 infants, each of whom was on set for just a few hours. The resulting images show quizzical-looking toddlers that seem to fly in the face of stereotypically cute representations of youngsters. Here, we are invited to take these babies, well, seriously.

Photographer Evan Kafka at TIME's photo shoot on Feb. 5, 2015. (Courtesy Evan Kafka)
Photographer Evan Kafka at TIME's photo shoot on Feb. 5, 2015.
Courtesy Evan Kafka

“Babies make these fantastic expressions, but they are fast,” Kafka adds. “You might not notice them in real life — these transitional moments.”

But how does he capture them, if they are happening so quickly? It’s all about casting, volume and interaction, he says. Kafka makes sure to cast the babies he’ll photograph in person, and when they are on set he takes scores of pictures (for this shoot, think over 2,500 frames). But most importantly, he’ll often rattle out a song or tap out tunes on the side of his leg to get their attention. Then, with the right subjects, a gold dust expression will emerge. It’s all part of the job for a baby photographer, he adds.

“Every feeling in their body is like a new experience for them,” Kafka says. “They make the most wondrous faces.”

Richard Conway is reporter/producer for TIME LightBox

Myles Little, who edited this gallery, is an Associate Photo Editor for TIME

Evan Kafka is a photographer based in New York

More Must-Reads From TIME

Contact us at letters@time.com.

You May Also Like