Article written by Victoria Berekmeri – Adelaide Birth Photographer
With passion in my heart and honesty in my eyes, it’s the question I answer for each and every client before they even need to ask it.
I guarantee you, it’s more than you might initially consider. Birth Photography, much like birth itself, has an impact on all involved. Even the community as a whole is impacted when Birth Photography becomes a tool with which to normalise birth and share the power and beauty in it.
The experience of birth for a mother is more profound than most can articulate, yet it’s ceremony has been greatly lost in our western, medicalised culture. The benefits of medicine and resources in some regards have smothered the benefits natural unhindered birth offers women. Recording a women’s labour and birth experience provides her the opportunity to comprehend, debrief, morn and celebrate that experience. It also has the benefit of seeing her journey from a very different angle from her own experience of it, one that depicts the care and love received from others along with her own strength and power.
For husbands, partners and support people, watching your loved one labour and birth a baby is all consuming. The surreal experience of witnessing a baby being brought into the world is one you can’t help but be lost in and this is so beautiful to watch. Partners offer support in ways women may not always realise at the time, but they can always be seen in the photographs. The adoration, pride and respect from partners is highly valued in relationship bonds that strengthen from experiencing birth together. Photography reaffirms these bonds and captures them to reflect on with mother and child for years to come, it’s forever an important part of that child’s story.
Irrespective to how a baby is brought into the world, that child draws a celebration of a lifetime. It is the first day of their life and they are the centre of their parent’s world. Being at the focus of such a powerful love brings incredibly special moments which can never be re-enacted. As an adult, looking at images of these special moments can realign values and provide a perspective on our relationships. It sets up a definition of birth in real and relatable terms, with photography that captures the core honesty of emotion and experience. Then there’s the legacy photography of a birth journey can bring. Imagine a 30 year old daughter breaking the news to her mother that she’s expecting her first child. With tears in her eyes, the mother hands over a book that contains the journey she took to bring her daughter into the world. The support, love, intensity and bonds are there in their hands; the details of her story, containing the reality and genetic relevance you can’t find in any pregnancy or birth book. The value for the child lies in the normalisation of birth which happens as a mother shares her story with her child. This normalisation happens again when the mother continues to share her story when her child, now an adult, is embarking on their own path of parenthood.
For Birth Workers, Birth Photography validates and documents the love and passion behind their own reasons for working with birthing women. Birth workers have an incredibly challenging role to play, often juggling rules and policy with professional views and personal beliefs whilst holding a woman’s space for her during labour. With long hours, intense situations and a great deal of responsibility, it’s being able to stay in touch with why they do what they do, that carries the power to a happy and successful career. I’ve seen the impact of joy when a group of Midwives witnessed a beautiful collective slideshow I created for them, containing my own images as well as clients heartfelt feelings towards their Midwives.
In sharing birth photography with those who care most about us, it helps to secure the bonds and values within our circles. It also plays an important part in normalising birth which can help to remove the fear based mentality surrounding this incredible event.
In much the same way, Birth Photography viewed in the wider community can help to define values within our culture, along with normalising birth and breaking down barriers surrounding the perception of what it is and isn’t like. Birth is not something to be feared, it is to be celebrated! It’s our social responsibility to share the goodness of our experiences so that others can walk into their own versions of the experience with an informed idea of what can happen. Sharing birth photography gives people the opportunity to share their opinions on what is acceptable, and for those who are yet to make up their mind they are given the opportunity to hear both sides of the story.
As a photographer, the experiences I continue to have on my journey have evolved my awareness and understanding of life’s bigger picture. The seed I planted 5 years ago, I loved, nourished and allowed to grow as it needed. This seed has taught me more about myself, what truly matters in life, where we as a culture are blessed and stifled, and most powerfully, that by honouring my heart I can actually play an important part in enacting social change for the better.
So there you have it! The value of birth photography is as dynamic as it comes and I’m sure it’s worth could be viewed in as many varying ways as the journey of birth itself is unique. What’s important when understanding the value of this genre is that your heart is open to respecting the opinions of others and that you recognise appropriate ways to share your own views.
On a final, and personal note - I cannot think of a greater honour than to be named the Inaugural AIPP Canon Australian Birth Photographer of the Year. This is a blessing and a true joy to see my journey through to now and I anticipate with enthusiasm where the path ahead may lead for this genre. As a collective of passionate birth photographers in this country, I know great things are ahead of us. I know this because I can see that the walls are high, and with that comes a greater triumph. When we stand together in our views and represent the growing number of families who continue to seek out this service, we play a pivotal role in changing lives and our culture for the better.
If you see the greater value and want to be a part of the team, join the AIPP Birth Photography Special Interest Group. The more we stand together, the greater impact we can have on changing perceptions, aiding healing and growth, affirming positive bonds and values, contributing to better health outcomes for women, and enacting social change.
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