Photo by Kim Charie
Used to be, the intimate moments parents thirsted to capture on film were those precious first steps, the first ice cream cone or unloosed tooth, the little darling blowing out the birthday candles.
Photo by Kim Charie
All of that is still fine and good, but now an increasing number of moms and dads are looking to capture every bloody moment of childbirth, right down to the gasping face, the agonizing screams, the baby pushing outward -- hell, even the Cesareans, if it comes to that. Hence, the relatively recent arrival of birth photographers.
The New York Times reports that there is a burgeoning interest in chronicling this most elemental and intimate rite of passage. Birth photographers have sprung up in recent years across the country, and the International Association of Professional Birth Photographers -- a group started by a Texas photographer who received inquires from women in other states seeking a birth photographer near them -- now has roughly 400 members.
As The Times reports:
Dr. Randi Hutter Epstein, the author of Get Me Out: A History of Childbirth from the Garden of Eden to the Sperm Bank, said many cultural cues could make some women feel the need to make their births "photo-shoot-able."
"There is a lot of pressure to not just cherish the birth experience but to promote it as this beautiful thing," she said. "Then you're going to get into your skinny jeans the next day and have a beautiful photograph of you looking absolutely beautiful and well rested with your perfect-looking baby, like all the celebrities."
Still, Dr. Epstein said, "Now that I have an 18-year-old, it would be wonderful to look at these beautiful photos of him being born."
Kim Charie knows her way around a delivery room. For nearly three years, the 34-year-old Seattle-area birth photographer has been recording the arduous physical trial that is childbirth.
"I document the entire journey," says Kim Charie, a Seattle-area birth photographer.
"For a parent, it's one of the most important days of your life, and I believe it should be celebrated," says Charie. "What I do is document the entire journey."
To date, she's shot about 15 births, beginning when the mother goes into the labor. "I photograph the painful moments," she adds, "but what I focus on is the connection between the partners, the beauty of the two of them working together...It's empowering to bring life into the world."
Charie charges an average of around $1,500 (click here to see some of her work), not a whole lot of compensation, considering she's on call for about a month before the child is born, which, in at one case, took more than 12 hours to arrive. And, yes, as you can well imagine, things sometimes get pretty intense -- filming four C-sections is proof of that.
She shoots only in black-and-white because, she explains, it is very important to her that the attention not be drawn to the messy aspects of childbirth, but to the expressions of the couple experiencing this painful/joyous ordeal.
"That's why I don't focus on crowning shots (the baby coming out)," Charie said, "because for me, it's the emotional connection that is most important."
And when it's mercifully over, and Charie presents to the beaming proud parents a DVD containing about 100 images: "The woman always cries instantly when she sees the pictures."