Years ago the only people who were allowed into the delivery room was the mother (of course) and the medical team assisting her. But nowadays, the number of people allowed to witness the magical moment of birth is ever expanding with many families hiring the services of a professional birth photographer to record each and every moment of labor, delivery and all things in between.
Birth photographers capture the unique phenomenon of the joy of birth, the moments of labor, the birth of the baby and the initial moments of bonding in close detail regardless of the mode of delivery. This journalistic style of recording birth is gaining popularity by the day with a poll suggesting 1 in 5 pregnant women have considered hiring the services of a birth photographer.
The International Association of Professional Birth Photographers shows how popular this trend has become with the association now having over 860 members spread across 24 countries.
Though a lot of people are now choosing a birth photographer to capture in intimate detail the goings-on in the labor room, there is a section of society which equates birth photography with pornography. Facebook and Instagram too have been guilty of censoring birth images and banning birth photographers from publishing their body of work.
It’s true that some of the birth images can be often graphic in nature, but that’s because it displays the reality of normal labor and birth without soft focus. But just because an image is graphic doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s vulgar, sexual or a piece of porn. Well, the good news is that there are social forums like Birth without Fear which frequently engage in debate over social media censorship of birth photographs and encourage a healthy discussion regarding birth and the birthing process.
If you want to go forward and hire a birth photographer to record the most important event of your life, then go ahead by all means. Do not be dissuaded by those people who label it as pornography. Instead draw inspiration from those countless women who have opted for a birth photographer and are blissfully happy about their decision.
If you are still of two minds and are unsure whether birth photography = pornography then read on to discover why they are different. For you will realize that there is a hell of a difference between these two.
7 It's Not Vulgar or Sexual
How can an image of a newborn baby suckling at his mother’s breast in a natural state be regarded as vulgar is beyond me. Actually the problem lies not in the woman who chooses birth photography to record her baby’s entry into the world but in our minds which interprets giving birth as something sexual in nature.
We should realize that not everything comes down to sex and a woman’s naked body shouldn’t be automatically seen as pornographic material. Images of women dressed up provocatively with barely-there clothes selling us soaps to cars are the ones that are truly vulgar and should rightfully raise our ire. For these images are denigrating a woman by marketing her as an object for our voyeuristic consumption.
Birth photographs on the other hand, are extremely inspiring as they depict a woman in all her glory with her strengths and failings. Giving birth is a painful thing but the journey is an incredible one and pictures of women giving birth aren’t sexual as they are just images of our body in a natural state giving birth.
6 Birth Photography Documents Birth in a Holistic Manner
A woman giving birth is hardly aware of what is happening around her as she is so caught up in the moment. Once the woman leaves the hospital she rarely remembers the events leading up to the birth of her baby. Giving birth is such an amazing thing, why is it that we do not strive to capture those moments for eternity?
Thanks to birth photography we can now document the important milestones of a very important occasion in our lives – the birth of our baby. Birth photography helps to document individual births in a holistic manner in all its totality often including pictures of the woman at different stages of pregnancy, the stages of labor, the moment when the baby is born as well as postpartum images.
This kind of a recording of events seeks to convey an idea of the entire event rather than just a few snaps following the birth of the baby. A lot goes into delivering a baby, so capturing the birth process should seem natural, instead of just before and after shots of the pregnant woman and then with her newborn.
5 There is Nothing Shameful About Birth
Birth photography fights for a woman’s desire to birth the way she wants to and document whatever it is that she wants to document without the act being labeled as offensive or pornographic. And why not - for what is so shameful about birth that one cannot document it. The birth of a baby reminds us that a woman’s body is much more than an object – it is in fact the gateway to humankind’s existence and thus worthy of our respect.
Birth, scars, a newborn baby are all normal things and a routine part of a birthing environment. There is nothing shameful or pornographic about birth and by sharing honest moments of birth we are taking a huge step in empowering women to appreciate the beauty in all forms of birth - be it a vaginal delivery or by cesarean, in a home, hospital, on the floor or inside a water tub.
Giving birth to another human being is indeed a miracle and we should be thankful that today we have the technology to capture this most breathtaking moment in all its glory surrounded by much love.
4 It's Empowering
Typically birth has been treated as a taboo subject confined to the realms of medicine, but birth as a lived experience has been largely ignored. Up till now, images of childbirth have been seen through a clinical lens, but birth photography challenges the notion of how birth is portrayed in our culture. Hence in this context, birth photography acts as a torchbearer in women’s rights, where women get back control over their bodies.
Birth photography for the first time gives recognition to the experiences of childbearing women as a reliable source of knowledge. It helps women take control over the images of their bodies not as an object for medical science, but as birthing bodies which are normal and where birth is viewed as a normal event.
Birth photography thus blurs the perceived moral boundaries and therefore has the potential to challenge existing gender stereotypes. It also has the capacity to bring about a change in the way we view bodies and inspire mothers to embrace the physical changes brought about by birth and breastfeeding. By documenting the birth experience, birth photography empowers women to embrace their unique birth experience.
3 It's Not Pornography
Birth is a lot of things at the same time– hard, exhausting, beautiful, rewarding, difficult and also graphic, but pornographic is definitely not a word associated even remotely with any birth. After all birth is a new life entering the world and a meeting of souls – an elevating and a supreme act, so the question of comparing it with pornography does not arise at all.
Images of birth as documented by birth photographers are not only inspiring and empowering, but extremely moving in nature. They not only make one feel connected to the trials of another woman, but also help one connect to the forgotten experiences in one’s life. These graphic images may not be to everyone’s liking but that's ok.
The same thing could be said for many things that show up on our Facebook pages. If one doesn’t want to see what's on the screen, then one can just ignore the images. But one thing is certain: nudity in childbirth and breastfeeding is definitely not pornographic, sexual or exploitative in nature. It’s high time we stop treating it in that manner.
2 It's Not Coercive
Birth photography cannot be regarded as pornographic in nature for the simple reason that it is not coercive. A birth photographer doesn’t go barging into a labor room clicking pictures of naked pregnant women and then make sleazy videos out of them. Birth photography is a specialized field where the choice to opt for this decision rests purely on the would-be parents.
The birth photographer generally meets up with the client during the course of her pregnancy and has an in-depth discussion with her. The birth photographer has the consent of the woman at every stage and together they go over every detail so the question of coercion does not arise. Unlike makers of porn, these professionals have a deep sense of respect for the birthing environment and the woman giving birth so the shots they take are always shot aesthetically.
Within its ambit, birth photography records the excruciating pain, the tears of joy and the excitement of bringing a new life into this world. The photographers who specialize in this field make use of their art to tell the story of birth and to record a moment of miracle and one of the lucky few to witness one of life’s greatest miracles.
1 Birth Needs to Be Celebrated
Our human body is a complex and incredible machine, and a pregnant woman’s body is one to truly to be in awe of and marvelled at. A pregnant woman within her womb carries another life and shouldn’t that feat simply be celebrated. And birth photography helps one celebrate that moment day in and day out.
Over time, a lot of mothers don’t remember much about their births which is really a sad thing. Birth photographs help a woman recall the amazing feat her body had achieved then. Birth photographs capture the intensity of strong emotions in the room, the gentle touches, the strong words of encouragement and the tiny but important details that somehow get forgotten in the race of life.
They help a woman reclaim her birthing experience whenever the fancy takes hold of her. Having pictures of such a momentous occasion gives the parents an opportunity for a lifetime to relive one of the most important moments of their lives.