Yesterday the International Association of Professional Birth Photographers released the winners of the 2020 Birth Image Competition, which is one of the WORLD’S BIGGEST birth photography contests. This organization was created 10 years ago by Lyndsay Stradtner of Life in Motion Photography, and is now headed by the wonderful Liz Cook, who must have 17 arms and 3 brains. This organization was “born” right around the time my son was born, and back then birth photography in general was still in it’s infancy. As soon as these birth photography competitions started circulating, I was hooked. I knew I wanted to be a part of this genre immediately. You see, I have been attending births as a doula+ photographer full time since 2015 when I ventured out, flat out quit my “day job” and decided to give this career a shot full time. And although I have been a photographer pretty much all my life since I can remember (even as a child, I always had a camera in hand), I finally got really serious about learning everything I could about the technical aspects, editing, lighting, ALL OF IT just within the last few years. This year, I finally decided to get brave and enter some images. And to say I have no words to describe what it feels like to actually win an award at this competition is an understatement.
To think I started really learning the inside outs of photography in probably the most difficult genre, where lighting conditions are usually incredibly challenging, things happen in the blink of an eye and if you’re not ready, you miss it, furniture and humans stand in your way…..let’s say next lifetime I will start my professional photography journey practicing on still life. But this goes to show you, if there’s a will, there’s a way! A vision, passion and perseverance can make your dreams come true.
Since I started birthwork as a Doula, then a Midwife’s assistant, my passion has always been supporting the birthing families in every way possible, before, during and after birth. In the beginning of my career I would bring my camera along to the births and just ask if I could take pictures for them, free of charge, just to learn and grow and provide them with something, because I truly believe that seeing yourself in images during those moments, having a record of what you accomplished, how hard you tried, what your partner’s face looked like, is a HUGE part of the healing and transformational process of birth. Fast forward a few years, almost 200 births and tens of thousands of clicks on my camera shutter, I am finally at a place I feel deserving enough within myself to claim my stake in this piece of the art world. And apparently, some other people like my work too 🙂
When a family trusts me to capture these quick, fleeting, incredible moments, I am still beyond honored and flattered. I take joy in creating art from ALL the moments: the messy, the emotional, the painful, the difficult, ALL OF IT. It’s all beauty to me. Because I honor and respect the families I work with first and foremost, there are SO MANY hundreds of pictures that are absolutely breathtaking and beautiful I will never be able to share. But when I come across a family that is willing to be a part of this greater movement….to bare themselves and show all of it, my heart sings with joy.
Here are some of the images that I had narrowed down to in order to submit 5 for this competition, all taken last year (2019), all shared with permission. You could submit a total of 5 images total, and the categories included Labor, Delivery, Birth Details, Postpartum and Fresh 48. There are over 1140 members in this International Association, over 700 images submitted, and 24 countries represented.
And then there is this image. This brave first time mama not only chose me to be her doula and birth photographer as a first time mom….but she welcomed me, bared it all to allow me to capture the amazing moments during their first few days after birth, in all their messy glory, and allowed me to share these real honest, vulnerable moments with the world. I am eternally grateful to her for helping me make a dream come true.
This image had the honor of winning Member’s Choice in the category of Fresh 48 (images taken within 48 hours of birth).
We had an incredible time capturing her immediate post-partum period, it was more than a photo shoot, it was life unfolding.
Here is sliver of the visual journey from that beautiful day…
It is my hope to continue to show the beauty of birth, the normalcy of birth, the many variations of birth, and to capture the postpartum period in all it’s beautiful mess.
Congratulations, dear one! This honor is truly deserved. It has been incredible seeing you find yourself, your style, and your growth. What an accomplishment!
Thank you so very much! A big compliment coming from another birth artist!!!!
Stunning, incredible, beautiful photos!!! Congratulations on this amazing accomplishment and award!! ❤️
Thank you so very much my friend!! I appreciate it!
So awesome, very very proud of you! And, as always, a pleasure to work alongside of you!! ❤️
Amazing! I’m so proud of you Martha! Your work is held close to our hearts in our home and your images speak for themselves! Pretty excited myself to be included in the process!!!
I have no words to use to thank you for this mama. This couldn’t have happened without you and your willingness. I am eternally grateful as I will ALWAYS remember this moment. Let’s buckle in and enjoy the ride together!
Truly magnificent pictures. And the winner is brilliant. You go!!!
Thank you so much my friend!
What a beautiful event to capture !! Wonderfully amazing pictures !!
Thank you so much Julie!!
So incredibly excited for you!! You deserve it ALL! I’m in awe of the way you capture such tender moments!
Thank you so very much!!!!
Wow. Just wow!! These images are so powerful, so raw, so emotional! It is such a blessing that you are able to capture these intimate moments between mamas, their new babies, and their support systems. Just incredible work that you are doing ♥️♥️♥️
Thank you Kelly, so much for your kind words!!!
Congratulations! So we’ll deserved. Your birth photography is always so beautiful .
Thank you so very much!!! That means so much coming from you my friend <3
These photos are absolutely beautiful! I’m so happy that you’re able to show birth and post-partum in their real and raw form. I’m so proud to have had you as my doula and now friend. Keep kicking butt & living your dreams
Stunning. Congratulations on the much deserved recognition . These photos truly inspire; they are beautiful and real. I see the journey… so much love, triumph, fear, pain… all of it and all of “the feels!” Indescribable and irreplaceable moments. Beautiful!!!