“You take pictures of what?!” Even five years ago, this was a common phrase that birth photographers were asked upon telling others our career. The appalled look was something we generally got used to, and then slowly…. we educated the masses. One by one, birth photographers have showed the world that birth photography isn’t about “the crotch shot” (or at least, isn’t all about the crotch shot.) In fact, birth photography is about so much more than any physical aspect of birth. Professionals are hired to document the support, the love, the details of what is surrounding the changing woman, as she emerges as a new mother. It’s not uncommon to find a birth photographer who began as a wedding photographer, and realized that birth is full of love, the unconditional kind. These moments are so special, that those who get to document birth realize immediately that they have a special place. Not only is it an honor to be witness to that sacred moment, but we get to tell the story of life, and love, from the very first moment it began.
Over the last several years, we’ve seen the birth photography industry grow by leaps and bounds! I very rarely get asked “what” I shoot anymore, and most people understand that these images are often more important over time than their wedding photos. For that, I am ever so grateful for organizations like the International Association of Professional Birth Photographers! IAPBP has been working for several years to raise the industry standard for birth photography, help raise awareness of it, and in the process, they’re helping to normalize birth.
This year was my first year as a member, and my first year competing in their image competition, which draws in attention from all over the world. A story has even gotten back to IAPBP, that a group of women secretly gathered in a closet in the Middle East, to bond over these birth images and tell their own private birth stories.
I realized that these competition photographs were the best of the best and honestly, I don’t intend to win. But I do intend to contribute to a birth industry where women have choices, where their voices are heard, their dreams are within reach, and their bodies are respected. My hope is that in sharing these stories, women near and far will see what is possible and find their own voices. Let’s improve birth, one photo at a time.
With all that said, I asked a few (from the hundreds) of fellow birth photographers why they felt this contest was more than a contest, why enter, especially if you don’t think you’ll win? Below are some of their responses and entries, from all over the world. I hope you enjoy them, and of course, make sure you go to http://birthphotographers.com to check out the contest when it goes live, on or before January 19th!
“I believe in entering because it brings awareness to how amazing and diverse birth is.” Mary Nieland, Light the Way Doula Services.
“I enjoy being part of IAPBP because of the supportive community and the shared love for capturing images of the gift of life. I enter the Image of the Year contest each year because together we help show the world how beautiful birth photography is. ” –Morgan Lang Photography
One of my personal entries, from a beautiful Cesarean birth this year. I felt this image was important because all birth is beautiful, and Cesareans are often under represented. The look in momma’s eyes as she becomes a parent for the first time, is what birth photography is all about to me.
“I enter to bring awareness to birth photography and all the different ways women give birth around the world. To educate, to encourage, to empower. To ignite a women to believe in herself, her body and her unborn child. I have a passion for each mother that has had trauma to find healing and that each first time mom feels like a warrior. I want to change the statues quo. I want others to see the beauty in the raw, in the real, in birth.” -Kourtnie Walker Scholz, KEDocumentary.
“My favourite part about birth photography is capturing the whole story – the little moments that later the family realizes were big ones. In this moment Mom was looking out the window asking for an answer after 18+ hours of labour. She wanted to know WHY her labour had stalled again at the same place it had with her previous birth. She wondered if she was going to end up in another Cesarian. She was thinking that however this turned out, she and her husband would soon be parents of two.
“I enter each year because I learned about birth photography because of this contest 4 years ago. It was because of the power of those images that I was passionated about marketing this service in my rural Kansas town and now have a thriving birth photography base. I want to give back to the organization that started it all for me.” – Kalene Nisly, Blue Muse Photo
“I entered this year to step out of my bubble and grow not only as a business but as a person! Birth is very near and dear to my heart and this contest shows just how beautiful, empowering, powerful and amazing birth can be. Birth is such a touchy and taboo topic that needs awareness and these portraits show that it is beautiful and powerful.” -Sarah Stanley, Love at First Sight Photography & Doula Services
“This is my first year entering a competition like this. A few fellow photographers got me excited. I love being part of this community of birth photographers.” -Pauline van Berkel, Lukk Geboortefotografie (The Netherlands)
“I entered this year because I wanted to take a risk, and grow. I also wanted to show diversity in birth stories. We get the opportunity to be someone’s memory and perspective. That is such a gift!” -Christi Taylor, www.christinajoan.com
“I was super excited to enter the competition this year to share the story of my amazing client Jessica, who rented an Air B n B, 3 hours from her home, in order to work with a care provider willing to support her wish of an HBAC. She got her dream birth when Baby Rose was born into the water, and caught by her Daddy’s loving hands.” -Shea Long, Coastal Lifestyles Photography (Canada)
“I enter the contest each year not because I think I will win but because I want to be an active Birth photographer in my community and be able to show parents that capturing such a memorable day is absolutely the best way to remember it for a lifetime.” -Kelly Sternenberg Richman, Lifetime of Clicks Photography
“I know I don’t have a winning image this year, however I do believe that every birth is beautiful no matter what. I entered this competition this year because I want to represent my small city where birth photography is not well known yet. I would love to spread the word far and wide that birth photography is a must for everyone!” –Helga Himer Photography (Sudbury, ON. Canada.)
“I enter each year for many reasons.
1. I love going back through each birth to relive all the love and joy – but also continue to hold space for those who’ve experienced loss.
2. To show the world that birth is, in fact, breathtakingly beautiful. And that birth means something different to each person and to each artist.
3. I also hope that entering will bring awareness to moms to ask the questions and demand more for their birth.
4. And my favorite – to constantly continue to push myself to be better – to capture more of the story – to find a different angle – to find my voice in the sea of greatness. I meticulously choose each photo for vastly different reasons – it’s an eye opener to go through the photos and find ways I can improve and offer more.” -Amanda Ditzel, Raleigh Birth Photography
“This was my first year entering because I felt it was time to give to my community. I normally don’t feel my work is good enough to win contests, so I don’t enter. But this year, I really wanted to just put myself out there and help support our birth community, even if I don’t get chosen, I know I helped make it as big as it is.” -Alexandria Marie Sayles, Amarie Photography.
“The IAPBP Image of the Year Competition is something that I look forward to for so many reasons. Beyond the most obvious reasons — the potential to win (which I don’t expect) and the promotion of awareness and support of birth photography — I also adore the community that it fosters. When submissions were open, I saw so much support among our members, helping others make selections that would be rival our own entries, suggesting titles, and encouraging those who didn’t feel confident in applying to do so anyway. Seeing the images all together inspires me, motivates me for the coming year, reminds me of the good and the beauty that is in this work that we do. It is SO much bigger than winning. It’s about women, about fathers, about babies, about peers. It’s about stories that should be, but often aren’t, told. It’s about community. It’s about love, and love is everything.” -Kayla Gonzales, Austin Birth Photos
“One of my favorite parts of the yearly birth photography competition is how it binds us together as birth photographers. It really doesn’t feel like a competition at all, but a collaboration to share the beauty, and miracle of birth. The best part of all is hearing stories of how different images encourage, and inspire other women to be confident in their births, and to have faith in their bodies. I believe that what we do is powerful, life-changing even. My goal as a birth photographer is always to capture the story authentically, and to present my clients with beautiful memories that bring joy, healing, and a reminder that they are fearfully and wonderfully made.” -Esther Edith, Esther Edith Photography and Doula Services
“I’m from the Netherlands and I entered the IAPBP competition for the first time this year. I entered because of the exposure it gives to birth photography worldwide. That, and seeing all those amazing images of such amazing photographers makes me push myself to work harder, to learn more and become a better birth photographer. ” -Cindy Willems, Birth Day geboortefotografie (The Netherlands)
“The honor that is to be present at a birth and capture those moments that can never be lived again is immeasurable. I can’t even believe this is my job. It’s hard work. It’s unpredictable. It’s insane. It’s emotional. It’s a miracle. But it is love and life at its fullest. And to bear witness to that experience is the most incredible job I’ve ever had.” -Lindsay Askins, Spot of Serendipity Photography.
Hundreds of photographers entered their images this year, providing insight into birth across the world. A few others you may look for:
-Rana Rankin, Breathe Birth Photography & Video (Queensland – Australia)
“I entered because I love the exposure it gives birth photography in general. Also I love to push myself and I think entering photography comps is a way of doing this. Last year I got an honourable mention and that was so awesome!”
If you’ve enjoyed this “sneak peak” the 2017 International Association of Professional Birth Photography- 2017 Image Competition, please leave some love in the comments for these photographers, and those reading. Many of them have stepped outside of their comfort level, to participate in the “bigger picture.” (No cheesy pun intended.) 😉