“Having a baby is one of the most emotionally powerful things you can photograph.
I’ve been doing it for almost 10 years now and I’m still emotional in the final stages of labor. I was photographing babies in 2013 when I started seeing some really powerful images of newborn photography in the US and Australia.
They’re black and white and they’re everything I love – you can see people, emotions and relationships. At the time, I had a blog so I wrote a huge list of all the things I wanted to do, and baby photography was one of them. Then people knew that was what I cared about and that’s how I got my first clients.
Unfortunately, there is a strict policy in most Irish maternity hospitals that there is only one person in the delivery room with a mother and often that will be her partner. So all the births I’ve photographed so far have been home births and those are different types of mom and dad. They may be a little more open to unusual experiences. They may even have thought before getting pregnant that they were going to have this special experience and they wanted someone there to capture it.
I always meet my mother first and go wherever they plan to give birth just to get a feel for the light and the room. And I think they’ll be happy to know that I don’t let strangers come to my door when they’re in labor!
During the first few conversations, I always asked if there was anything they didn’t want to photograph. Usually, they are quite open-minded. And besides, they know these photos are just for them. I won’t share them with anyone they don’t want them to. And most of the time, they’re in a puddle so I can’t see everything.
The home births that I photographed were a team effort. There was a midwife and maybe a doula, and then me. Moms-to-be keep us updated, and like a midwife, I have to clear my schedule for two weeks before and two weeks after. My phone has to be on all the time and I have to be ready with my device at any time of the day or night.
The first birth I photographed lasted six hours. I was mentally and physically exhausted afterwards and I wondered if I could keep doing this work if they lasted this long! But most of the time I come around 2am and I leave when the birds are singing.
My second child, 10 years old, was born around the time I started working as a newborn photographer and I think it would be a lot harder if I didn’t have my baby.
I don’t talk much when I’m in someone’s home – it’s a sacred space. I don’t comment and I try not to get too involved. I’m just trying to be cool and calm and I always say to my mom upfront, ‘If, at any point, even clicking on your camera is annoying, tell me and I’ll stop. ‘.
Do I ever want to offer support? Nothing. I just keep reminding myself that I’m here to document. None of this is about me, none of this is about me. My duty in all of this is to quietly record and be mindful of the woman in labor.
And that’s all I can do because you don’t know where you’re going, you just don’t know what’s going to happen. All outcomes are good, but sometimes things can get confusing and scary. There were moments… and I walked away because, in my opinion, that was all I could do.
Of course, the camera gave me a certain distance, but when the moment really happened, I had to have tears running down my face. You are also reliving your own experiences. You just feel it, you feel everything.
It took a while to get down and I really couldn’t sleep. Adrenaline often races inside of me. I came home and I was just annoyed, but very happy. I felt elated afterwards and I walked around with bright lights for a few days.
This type of work fosters great amounts of compassion and connection. And while every woman’s experience is different, there are a lot of things that are the same and that really connect you with other women. That makes me have a lot of respect for midwives or whoever does that job.
I also learned a lot from the midwives I worked with, about the ability to stay calm and composed. I do a lot of weddings and I tend to switch to my newborn photography mode, especially in the morning if things are getting tense. I kept quiet and calmed down and quietly jotted down what I needed to record.
Birth photography is definitely a growing trend here, but we’re still limited to home births. In Ireland, it is very difficult for women to give birth at home. It is considered dangerous, selfish, or odd. It is very difficult to find midwives with insurance to do so.
I would like to have my second child at home, but I am not in the catchment area. You may also be out of age to give birth at home – there are a lot of barriers. I wish it was more open and I wish there were more options for women.
Also, I think a lot of people are really preoccupied with the idea of birth photography. I get a lot of responses because people have a funny idea of what could be involved and their first case is to back away from it and say, ‘Oh no, that’s private, why? why are you taking pictures of that?’. I suppose it goes back to the feeling that we’re photographing everything and ‘Isn’t there anything sacred anymore?’.
However, in general, when people see the images, it changes their mind. I think they assume the pictures are really graphic or perhaps stylized, but when they see them, they think, ‘OK, I see what this is’.
People also make assumptions about the type of person who chooses to photograph their child’s birthday. I think they are sometimes judged as narcissistic or like the Kardashians, but they don’t do it for some trendy social media reasons. They are not looking for attention. It didn’t come from there. It is extremely personal to them.
They just realized that this was a really powerful moment that they wanted to capture. They want to capture this moment in time that they probably won’t remember.
They are truly truly amazing people and they couldn’t be further from what some might expect of them. “
To see Claire Wilson’s photography, visit newborn.ie.
As told by Katie Byrne
https://www.independent.ie/life/family/mothers-babies/ive-had-tears-streaming-down-my-face-when-photographing-a-childs-birth-41446883.html ‘I had tears in my face while taking pictures of the baby’s birth’