Birth Photography Trend Growing with Southeast Michigan New Parents
Some moms and dads are hiring talented photographers who capture all the details of your blessed event – the tender touches of support, the laughter, the tears and, yes, even baby's grand entrance.
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It's 2 a.m. when Amber Miller's phone goes off. The ring tone, a Spanish-language song called "El Choque," bursts through the silence of sleep. The choice is purposeful. The Spanish interrupts her dreams and signals the time to emerge from beneath the blankets. A client is calling. Amber grabs her camera bag, a Coke and pepper spray for dark parking lots before heading into the night.
"It seems normal to me. Two a.m. is not a foreign time of day. There's no traffic. It's the best," Miller says. But this magical moment stems from more than open roadways. Miller is a birth photographer, hired by expectant parents to document the experience of their child's birth through photos.
"It's not a mainstream thing yet, but everyone has been thrilled with the pictures," Miller says.
About birth photography
Miller, who started photographing births six months ago, owns Ann Arbor-based Gentle Birth With Amber. She is one of three birth photographers in Michigan, as of August 2012, listed with the International Association of Professional Birth Photographers, an organization founded three years ago to promote the growing practice, which boasts more than 400 members.
While the term "birth photography" may illicit squeamish, confused reactions – as one pictures vagina-bound babies shooting out – there's more to it. For birth photographers and the parents who swear by the service, hiring a professional is as natural as calling one for weddings, bar mitzvahs or baby-namings. And while parents often choose to include shots from "down there," birth photographers seek a larger narrative.
"The most important shot is not the baby coming out. It's the grandma crying in the corner. It's the details people forget. It says, 'Look what was happening.' It's special," Miller says.
What drew two local photographers
Miller's interest in birth has been building for years. A women's studies major at the University of Michigan, Miller will graduates in December 2012 before pursuing midwife certification. Currently, she also works as a "doula" or labor coach, who serves educational purposes, acts as a guide and provides emotional comfort during the pregnancy and labor process.
Through this work, Miller began her foray into photography. "There are always so many amazing moments during birth I wish I could show people. I wanted to be able to show moms how awesome they look," she says.
Yamile Branch, of St. Clair Shores-based Yamile Branch Photography, found birth photography another way. Always drawn to photography, Branch modeled as a teenager and worked her first job at a photo lab. Later, she began studying with photographers, by reading books, and asking questions. She discovered the difference between shooting a pose and capturing a spirit.
During her own pregnancies, Branch searched desperately for a photographer who could record the story of her labor. When she began photographing births one year ago, in addition to her pre-existing clients of newborns and teens, it was an extension of her own desire. "To capture that shot (of the moment of birth) is the most powerful image you can achieve," she says.
From parents making last-minute "boy or girl guesses," to the expressions on their faces to the mom sobbing, extremely proud after a long labor, Miller realized the significance in catching these fleeting moments. She's always liked photography and decided to put the two together – although Miller doesn't act as doula and photographer at the same time.
Miller says a June 2012 New York Times article on birth photography has helped normalize the service.
"It's just starting. Most people wouldn't think about it, but it gives people permission to see birth as something beautiful, not something to be afraid of," she says.