It seems to me, and correct me if I'm wrong, that birth photography has taken a huge leap in the public conciousness, maybe it's all the social media, maybe it's the circles I move in. Personally I think it's fabulous that more and more women and even men are seeing the real value in having someone capture a journey so absolutely life changing. Why wouldn't I like it right, it's one genre of my work?
The truth is, I've always been about capturing life, I photographed as much of my own childrens births as I could, before there was even any real discussion of birth photography, I just knew I wanted it documented in some way. I would've loved to have planned better and called my photographer friend I had lined up sooner... in time, but even having said that, the photographer friend I had lined up would've been thrown in quite a serious situation, especially given the nature of the birth of my second child. This is what is so unique about birth photography as a genre, and the photographers that offer it.
Not until you cover a variety of births can you appreciate just how different each birth is, how differnt each family is, each environment, each mother, father... nothing is the same, aside from maybe the love for the new baby.
I'm not going to pretend I've covered birth for years, it's a genre I've wanted to pursue for a long time and only in the second half of this year have I been able to take it on. Yet, having worked as a photojournalist for over 12 years I had a very solid grounding in working in unpredictable situations and a variety of lighting. Still, nothing compares to being 'on the job' photographing births.
In the five births I have covered so far, in only a short amount of time, and with another two booked for this month alone, I have learnt more than any text book, stories or even workshop could ever teach me. There really is nothing like being in amongst it... for want of a better comparison, it could be explained that a war photographer really doesn't become a 'war photographer' until they are thrown in amongst the action and learn from experience. Even having a background of covering various news jobs, nothing could prepare you for 'war' until you're in it... and there you learn the truth of yourself within it, either you can do it or you can't.
Birth photography is more than the photos, it's a relationship with the family, the mother, and dare I say, more importantly with the father. They have to have a connection with you and some sort of relationship, you're trusted to capture a time where woman is at her most vulnerable, and there is great responsiblity in that.
Every birth is so different, and is not MINE... think about that for a second... if I were to go into a birth with some sort of agenda would I be able to capture these moments for someone else? I have seen situations unfold in a birth space that I do not agree with, but that is NOT why I am there, sure I can have my opinion, but being quiet... that's my place. I have covered births at home, in hospitals, natural drug free vaginal birth of triplets, a c-section, a birth with use of epidural... and each and every birth has been nothing short of remarkable... life changing... I am a fly on the wall in horrid lighting conditions, tense moments as parents wait for the first cry... that's not stuff for the light hearted. So while there is great wonder in birth photography, and birth images show the journey, there is great emotion and starkness at times... that's not something you can be taught.
The simple nature of being "on call" is responsibility enough, with the phone always on, being woken in the wee hours of the morning, changing any 'plans' you may have had for a day, sacrificing time with your own family... it's huge! Yet, all this is something birth photographers do because they simply can't NOT do it. Their business's, MY business is centred around capturing life, mine is about newborns and new life, MY business is my passion, aside from my own children and family of course, but MY BUSINESS is built so much on an obsession to capture memories and life in all its colour and rawness... you cannot be taught that, it is something within, and something you learn the value of by experience.