Saturday, July 25, 2009

Birth Photography

I occasionally come across birth photography that takes my breath away. I am not able to embed the first one, so be sure to watch The Birth of Amerlyn Grace on the photographer's own website, Life in Motion. When I watched this slideshow, I had a visceral memory of my own labor and birth--leaning over a table, rocking my hips and swaying my head slowly, totally engulfed in the sensations. The pain inscribed low on my belly. The rhythmic, slow breaths, each one bringing me closer to release. The headiness of the birth endorphins making the room seem to sway and shift.

The second one by Lynsey Stone Birth Photography shows an unassisted birth.

Both videos are child- and work-appropriate. And, darn it, they make me want to do it all over again!


  1. oh yes, I love birth photography, love looking at birth photos as well as taking them. I saw Lynsey's work before, her photos are truly captivating and moving. Hopefully some day I'll be able to dedicate more time and energy to attending births and photographing them, but first I probably need to learn how to drive :)

  2. Wow! You're right. Those take my breath away. Stunning. I can't wait to do it again. :-)

  3. beautiful. I would love to photograph a birth. magical.

  4. I saw the first one about a month ago and went to the photographer's my surprise, she is in my area! I am sure she is $ so I will save up till my next birth so I can use her as a photographer. Beautiful work!

  5. You have me inspired!
    i looked up people in my area and will be meeting up with her soon. i'm really excited.

    we have barely any photos from the first birth, more from the second (but just point and shoot ones) plus some video..
    but i'm really excited about this time around.
    i feel like i keep adding on per pregnancy.
    first the belly cast, then the belly cast and henna... now... lol!

  6. I must say, the concept of "birth photography" (especially as outlined on the second website) unnerves me greatly. Do we have to filter all experiences through the camera's lens? And does doing so turn birth into a bit of a performance? When we view these artistic images do we say "oh yes, I want my birth to look like that one"?

  7. Birth photography "unnerves" you? What about Dr. Amy's attitude towards women who don't put birth in a box like she does?
    Sorry if that sounds off kilter.. but of all things.. really, birth photography?

    Many women take photos of their birth, whether through a professional lens or not. It's not about making your birth to look like some other birth you saw. It's about capturing the intense joy of that moment.

    I'm sure if you have a photographer who is in mom's face at every second and makes her presence known, yes mom could feel as if she's performing for the camera. The photographer should be like every other person who is invited to the birth. Respectful.

    There will always be women who "compete" and try to outdo each other. It's lame. "my belly cast will be better", "my placenta print will look prettier", "my henna paint will be darker and more intricate!"

    Is there anything women DON'T compete over? Why worry about this?

    Frankly, I'm viewing this as any other thing a family chooses for themselves, and not putting any extra merit into worrying about whether people are going to compete to get the best birth and the best birth pictures.

    All I want are beautiful photos, that I can hang on my wall, and give to my children when they are older. "This was the first moment, that I held you." And instead of saying "and i was so happy" I can hand him a picture and show him the look on my face when his little body was put in my arms. It's supposed to be special. That's it. Why read to much into it?

  8. Oh, for goodness sake. What about Dr Amy's attitude? You are directing your comments to the wrong person....

    What has that got to do with feeling disquiet at the development of a commercial photographic category called "birth photography"? Of course this is not just about what individuals choose - it is a social phenomenon (ditto, the belly cast, the henna party, the elaborate baby shower, the birthingway etc...). These are all rituals we are inventing collectively, not individually. Incidentally, I feel the same way about the tourist ritual of endlessly photographing, rather than just being *in* and experiencing a place. So, sue me.

  9. coming from a photography student, it's about not only just experiencing that place, but wanting to keep the memory physically as well. It's about art. People like myself experience things in more ways than just being there. Taking photos releases emotions within us.

    how is it not about individual choice? i think of it less a phenomenon and more of "because i damn well want to." you remind me of my college professors who tried to put more meaning into my art than I even cared to.
    Describe the intent, the emotion, the reasoning... the blah blah.
    I don't care. I WANTED to take it. I wanted this picture. Isn't that good enough? It made my heart flutter to capture this on film. It was pretty. Nothing beyond that.

  10. Isn't that the point of this blog? To think more deeply about birth in our culture? If that is off limits...

  11. well i'm not going to answer for Rixa, but you were commenting and degrading the fact that because women want birth photos it must mean we're performing and competing. that it's a "social phenomenon".
    really, you're making too much out of just having birth photos because they're beautiful and meaningful to the families alone. i'm not saying it's off limits to discuss the "birth culture", but sometimes photos are just photos. and people like them.

  12. I wasn't 'degrading' anything. I was saying that the concept of "birth photography" [by which I meant to refer to professional photographic category somewhat akin to the wedding photograph] unnerved me. ME. My opinion, just speaking for myself. You can agree with it or disagree with it. But I didn't degrade anyone by stating it. By the way, you seem to have missed the numerous question marks in that first comment.

    "Do we have to filter all experiences through the camera's lens?" <- see that question mark right there. Subject of discussion. What does it mean to live in a culture in which the camera's lens is ubiquitous.

    And does doing so turn birth into a bit of a performance? <- and there it is again. I would say the same thing about birthday cakes made primarily for the photograph rather than the eating.

    When we view these artistic images do we say "oh yes, I want my birth to look like that one"? <- and there it is again. A Question Mark. See? An invitation to discuss the role that birth photography may play in forming women's aspirations for their own births. or not, as the case may be.

  13. And since when is saying that something is a "social phenomenon" degrading it?

  14. We are all different people with different needs, ideas, philosophies, circumstances. If someone feels the need for complete privacy, complete presence in the moment without being distracted by the desire to capture that moment in some way, who am I to judge that person and say that it's wrong?

    Same is true for the opposite group of people, those who see art in the daily life, or who want a visual representation of things, emotions and events they are experiencing. How can anyone say that it's wrong? It's a personal choice, as simple as that.

    I had my last birth (at home) videotaped and photographed by my mw's apprentice and my husband. I can't imagine not having those visual representations of my best birth experience so far. And in spite of the fact that I'm an introvert and quite shy in real life, I share my birth video freely because I hope it will inspire other future moms to look into ideas that helped me to have a wonderful birth. I get several comments through YouTube weekly, a lot from young women who are not mothers yet, saying that after watching my birth video they are more hopeful and are not as scared of the prospect of going through the process of birthing one day.

    Everyone makes their choices based on their own circumstances and, really, it's pointless to criticize someone's choice without knowing all the personal circumstances :)

  15. I can safely say that I won't be getting any pictures of me during childbirth because at my last one, I was be a sweaty, red-faced mess with my hair plastered to my forehead. I don't think even a professional photographer could fix that! Heck, I don't even look as put together as that second woman when I am getting dressed up for a night out. Where's the poop and the sweat and the blood in these births? They are beautiful, but I find them a little bit sanitized, or maybe I am just aberrant for not having everything super-clean and tidy all the time...

  16. You know, Lynsey did the the twins birth? She's amazing. I have two births coming up shortly that I'm super excited about. I just recently put together a new slide show for advertising purposes:

  17. And to comment on the discussion (which I just read) as a professional birth photographer:

    First of all, I don't "sanitize" the births. I meet with my clients prior to the birth and we discuss what they want represented in their images. I normally do take some "blood and guts" images but most families would rather those not be on the Internet and I respect their feelings. I posted my OWN placenta pic though, cause it was a twin placenta and REALLY cool.

    Secondly, I have had plenty of people not be interested in my services because they are desiring a more private birth. But then there are plenty of people who are happy to have me there.

    I have, to a woman, heard nothing but positive things both about my presence at their birth and the final product. I have had moms tell me that they watch their slide shows weekly and cry every time. They are delighted to look at this representation of the emotion and events that played out the day their baby was born. It is a gift that I can give and I still get goosebumps EVERY time I put one of those slide shows together.

    I am quiet, discreet, I stay out of the way. I do not bother the birth process and I have never heard a complaint (from either Mom or HCP). I am very aware that my being there could bother a laboring mother and I have had clients ask me to not shoot something in particular or to leave them for awhile. I am ALWAYS respectful of that.

    I am in love with my job. IN LOVE with it. I do not see it as "filtering birth through the cameras lens". I capture the emotion of the moment. The joy on Dad's face as the baby is born, the look on the big sister's face when she sees the baby, the posture and strength of Mom as she pushes her baby into the world. And as for the greater picture, how wonderful that I can share images from birth center and home physiologically normal births with the wider Internet so that they can understand that birth is not torture!

  18. I've also been following these comments with interest...You know, I kind of understand the concern about "wanting my birth to look like hers" when you see gorgeous birth photos. But I think the same applies to reading birth stories--you find some very inspirational or confidence-building and you want the same kind of experience for yourself.

    I love that I have pictures and some video of the birth,e ven through they're not professional quality. I wish I had more/better ones too. But I have noticed that when you have pictures of the birth, your memories start to morph from your internal point of view to the camera's POV. So in my mind, I'm starting to "see" both the images from my own eyes and those from the camera, when I think back to the birth.

    Intertwined--that's cool she took pictures of your twins' births! And thanks for your input as a birth photographer.

  19. You're welcome!

    I think of it rather as integration. There was so much I missed in the other room and even in the room when I was pushing (SO TIRED! SO HARD!).

    And it's especially important for c-section Moms. They miss EVERYTHING being strapped down to a table for the whole affair.

  20. Lynsey photographed my son's birth in 2007, and she's wonderful. She was a fly on the wall for the whole birth- I think I said hi to her at one point, and smiled for one picture after my son was born- but nothing was ever done for the camera. She just captured what was going on.

    I wasn't made up, I was sweaty, and bloody, and working as hard as I've ever worked in my life. And I was beautiful.

  21. Me too, Rixa, me too. As a midwife I don't think I'll ever see a birth and not have that thought...I hope I always do.

  22. This is to Amerlyn and that's our birth slideshow. Thanks for sharing. As a photographer myself, I've been able to capture births as they should be, too, and love it when people get to see this!

  23. I am a mother, photographer and birth doula. I think the concept of visualizing a beautiful birth to be empowering! We can only create reality when we imagine it (even idealize it). It is the power and love present in birth imagery that inspires mothers preparing to birth! This is called art, and oh yeah- artists do need to make money to feed our kids... Thanks to all the families that share their births!


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