Melb Birth Photographer

They let you in the room. Ah. Eh. Like... When she's in labour?

This is said incredulously.

Or they say, birth photography..whats that? and I answer with ‘Exactly what you think it is’

Early on when I first started tentatively whispering to people that maybe, just maybe… I might want to be a birth photographer some of the reactions were:

UGH.

Who would do this?

I just think of the episiotomy.

What about birth trauma?

Unfortunately this is a reflection of our current birth culture where instead of an exciting event of a baby being born into the world, is clouded with fear. This is something I hope my imagery will help to change.

As Ina May Gaskin said

"It's easy to scare women. It's even profitable to scare women....But its not nice, its very bad manners so lets stop"

One of the surprising things about this work is how calm birth can be. Yes, it always looks like work or as I’ve heard some of the more experienced midwives say ‘they don’t call it labour for nothing!’ but there are really lovely moments too. I’ve seen beautiful, transformative, empowering births and I want you to know that when it comes to birth you get to choose how you go into it. You can choose to tune into the messages you like and tune out the ones you don’t. I want you to know its possible to feel confident, assured and excited!

My friend Louise from Mamma Mudra recently asked on instagram:

What if we planned our births like we plan our weddings?

When I got engaged people said oh you need Pinterest! What will your colours be? Your flowers? What kind of dress? Will it be a sit down or a cocktail wedding?

Yet so often we I ask people what they hope for when it comes to their birth they say ‘all the drugs’ or ‘I’m just going to go with the flow’ You don’t need to go with the flow, this is your body and your family and your baby. So make the plans.

Take up space.

Ask for what you want and expect to get it.

It's not about the babies

“People want to see cute babies.”

“People love photos smiling and looking at the camera.”

Both of these statements have been said to me and I still have no intention of providing photos of cheesy smiles. Im here for bigger work. Im here to capture the magic moments of the everyday, to facilitate a space where you can be so completely yourself that I get to take a photo of exactly who you are. Lets be honest, the ‘say cheese’ smiles only exist in photographs, I don’t Ive ever seen a cheesy smile come organically.

When I shoot a birth, its not about the baby. Even though I feel like other people want it to be.

For me,its all about mums experience, this incredible transition, regardless of whether this is her first born, her fifth or somewhere in between.

At first it puzzled me when mums would say to me yeah I’d love to have a birth photographer but I didn’t do it with my first so I would feel guilty. It was only later when debriefing with my husband I realised these women thought the photos were about the birth of a child. They aren’t, they’re about the birth of a mother. (side note. My sister is 9 years younger than me and my mum had a photographer at her birth. It never occurred to me that I missed out as the older sibling. Though when it comes to her being allowed to have her ears pierced at six, thats another story.)

I swing between desperately wanting to tell these stories and also wanting to keep them tucked away precious only for the families I serve. These photos and these families mean so much to me that it can feel almost intrusive. When I send out a birth gallery I worry about whether Ive done their birth justice. When I write about individual births I make sure I run it by the families first before sharing. This work isn’t about me, its about them and I want to make sure they’re feeling honoured.

My favourite moments are the in between moments. Your partner feeding you jelly or attempting to help you tie up your hair. The bag of Allens lollies in the freezer waiting. Your partner peeling you a banana and making a cup of tea while you’re lying on the couch having some skin-skin time with your new baby.

These moments matter. Your memory will fade but these photos remain to remind you.


My WHY

Alright, so I’m going to tell you about my why. (whenever I say that I almost break into song, aaannndd I wonder, why why why why, she ran away)

No, just me? Ok, sorry. 

I think a lot of the time people hear that I’m a birth photographer and its met with shock. We live in the age of social media and I think people’s minds immediately go to sharing things on instagram and sharing things on Facebook. While I don’t have a problem with that and it is some peoples choice, its not ultimately why I do what I do.

For me its very much around remembering, around personal memories, around storytelling. I came across some slides that my grandfather had taken in the 60s of my mum and aunt when they were kids, like baby in the basket and my grandmother and the girls on the beach and I just think that those images are so spectacular, not because of they are technically perfect, not because of the composition or..but because they capture the moment and they tell a story and you see something you otherwise might not have seen. 

To me that is what my work is all about, its about time travel. Sitting down and going through watching those slides is really incredible for me and  and I imagine my clients in the future, far far into the future, tidying up their house and they come across a little leather pocket filled with photos of their birth story and they can reminisce on when their child was born and think about and recollect those moments you’d forgotten about. I have a dog, Professor, he is 2 and a half years old and even looking back at photos of him as a puppy, I cannot believe how much he has grown! I have forgotten how small he was and looking at old photos of him when he was so little and so clingy that he once fell asleep on my feet in the kitchen while I was making cupcakes or you know, remember time he was so naughty that he bit through his entire crate when I got home from work one day it was like toothpicks all over the floor! I think so much of what I do is about that time travel, about preserving those memories. As a birth photographer I get to see things that mum doesn’t see, moments that happen so SO quickly that if they aren’t captured on camera then they’re not revered in a way that they could and I think should be. 

 

 

One of my favourite, favourite  photos from my wedding (taken by Elsa Campbell - make sure you check out her work!) - Elsa took a photo of my new brother in law, sitting with my niece on his lap taking a photo of my nephew with the assistance of one of my parents close friends. This is a beautiful photo representing the merging of two families that is really special and really spectacular and really personal. Its a moment I otherwise wouldn’t have witnessed and I think to me thats even better than our posed wedding pictures, I love my photos of just my husband and I together but I also love this photo that I didn’t see - this is really really special and I love this photo. This is why I do what I do. 

Elsa Campbell Photography

Elsa Campbell Photography