Birth Photography: Chatting with Liz Cook about birth photography + birth stories
While I was pregnant with my daughter six years ago I don't remember thinking much about birth photography. I know it quickly passed through my mind, but that's about it. Not many people, at least that I knew of, were hiring birth photographers. Then with my second, a little over two years ago, I thought about birth photography quite a bit. I went back and forth as I thought about logistics, whether or not it would be fair to my daughter to have a birth photographer for her sibling's birth and not her's, who would I hire, would I feel inhibited during labor with a photographer present. Ultimately, I decided against it. It's the one decision regarding my births that resembles regret. Especially now, when I see the emotional, real, beautiful, organic birth photography images like the ones you'll see from Liz Cook. See, back when it seemed not many people were doing birth photography, Liz Cook was. She got started when asked to photograph the birth of her sister's fourth baby. When she and I chatted I called her a pioneer. Then I referred to her on the socials as "birth photography wonder woman." I was so excited to talk to her about her work, the field of birth photography, and I even ended up sharing my hesitations about birth photography while I was pregnant. Liz is amazing. Here's more of what she and I talked about...
"There's just oxytocin in the air." - Liz
Just a couple days before my chat with Liz, I said to Nate, "You know I've given birth twice, but I've never witnessed it. You have twice. I'm kinda jealous!" (It's an interesting thing really, to have given birth, but never witnessed it.) So I was especially interested to hear how Liz would talk about being present for so many births in a non-medical role. "There's just oxytocin in the air." That's what Liz said when I asked her about what it's like to be present for and photograph birth. She said so much more than that, but that one sentence got me in the gut. Birth is just so incredible! I could feel Liz's energy and warmth and her love for her "gift of a career" through our video chat. And really, you've got to love the work given the unpredictability and hours (babies come anytime!)
"I wondered if having a photographer would inhibit me... stall labor." - Julie
I shared with Liz that I didn't end up hiring a birth photographer because I wasn't sure how I'd feel to have a photographer in the room, especially if I knew them personally (I know quite a few photographers!) Liz shared that it comes down to personal preference whether or not to hire a photographer you know - Liz has photographed family, friends, and strangers giving birth. She also made the excellent point that by the time she shows up, the birthing mom doesn't care who is in the room. She arrives when mamas are in active labor. (I still think I, personally, would hire a stranger. I'm not modest at all, but I like my labor circle to be small.)
"My images all have time stamps." - Liz
Of course they do! And that's something that never crossed my mind. When Nate and I reflected back on the birth of our son, neither of us had a clue what happened at what time. We were saying things like, "What time do you think we went back to the hospital? Must have been about 1am, right?" We talked about timing out of curiosity, but from a birth story standpoint, the exact times really didn't matter to me. But all the details mamas will absolutely want time stamps for writing their birth story. Hiring a birth photographer guarantees you'll know the exact times for all the immediate happenings surrounding your birth, without asking your doula or another labor support person to keep track of them. And really, who has time to record time when supporting a laboring mama?
"I feel and read the birth environment." - Liz
Now a mama of two and very experienced as a birth photographer, Liz has a gift of feeling and reading the birth environment. She captures the emotion in the room, the prettiness of birth, the people in the room who love, support, and serve mamas while they labor. Wow. That's what you want in a birth photographer.
And, friends, this last birth image... I feel so honored to even see it, let alone share it with all of you. It's an image of Liz from the birth of her second daughter. I see mama strength, a baby who just worked really hard with her mama, a gentle + supportive touch on Liz's arm, and incredible beauty. Birth is amazing and ridiculous in the best way. Liz, thank you so much for chatting with me and sharing your goodness with The Birth Journal community. You have some lucky mamas who get to work with you!
Friends, see more of Liz at her site Liz Cook Photography and over here on Instagram.