There's more to birth photography than meets the lens!

Pallavi Aman Singh | Updated: Jul 29, 2017 22:41 IST

New Delhi [India], Jul 29 (ANI): Once considered a behind-closed-doors affair, the powerful, emotional and beautiful journey of birth has now turned into an up-and-coming niche as capturing this highest form of expression can be quite an art in itself. The days of dads-to-be being confined to the waiting rooms may have been long gone, but partners with an iPhone don't necessarily click the best shots with those shaky hands. Here's when a birth photographer comes into the picture, leaving new parents free to live in the moment. Usually seen as just taking pictures of the emerging baby, birth photography has more to it. It is about capturing the raw and real emotions of the event and un-photoshopped moment as it unfolds - be it a mother's strained, gasping face or her bulging neck veins. Blurring the lines between public and private domains, this latest trend is turning a traditionally hush-hush event into something to be captured on camera and shared with a wider audience. "Birth photography is a concept that revolves around capturing the miracle of childbirth in its most gracious form," professional photographer Urshita Saini, founder of InfLens, told ANI. "People talk about birth being a miracle; all I do is describe it in the form of pictures." "Be it the bond that a husband and a wife share during labour, the first time the baby steps into the world, its first expressions, its crying, its laughter, mother and baby's first look at each other, the father's expressions when he sees the baby for the first time, the family's bond after coming of the new member, I capture it all," she added. Already a trend in the West, birth photography is gradually gaining popularity in India with parents choosing to show the beauty in birth instead of waiting to photograph a perfectly posed newborn at a studio. Talking on the same, Urshita said, "People here, once made aware of the concept and the sanctity of the pictures, get interested in the concept." "At times it does happen that people opt out after being interested mainly because they do not see this as a common activity online. I call this the 'fear of the unknown.' But we are trying to connect with more and more people and make them aware, through multiple channels and we have been getting a great response," she continued. In a country like India, where there are a lot of superstitions around photographing a newborn and a pregnant woman, how far can a concept like this reach? "Yes there are superstitions; not showing the baby to anyone outside the family for 40 days, not clicking the pictures for the first 3 months, etc, but this is restricted to only certain people," Urshita answered. "And we have realized that this prejudice is not dependent on the strata that the family belongs to. It completely depends on the mindset and exposure to the family. But I am sure even this group of people will catch up once they see the world around them enjoying these memories," she added. Sure, birth-photography may be a challenging affair in India as too many taboos exist around it, but the photogs find the experience equally satisfying. "Well honestly, I am sure I face the same challenges and benefits that any other photographer outside India faces," Urshita said, noting, "Everybody gets rejections; everybody has to have the patience and the strong willpower needed to withstand the time and toil of capturing the birth of a child. But yes, I do get importance and recognition for my profession, and I also get applauded for my persistence to spread this concept in India." "I have carried out more than 30 birth shoots. During my first shoot, there were a lot of circumstances that I did not foresee that made me realize how birth photography needs me to be extremely strong mentally. So yes, in short, the first birth shoot was one of a kind experience for me," she added. Moreover, this profession of providing new parents with incredible memories in the form of pictures so that they can relive the whole experience over and over again comes with some unique challenges. "Dealing with the superstitions is a big challenge that currently limits our audience," she noted, adding, "In the operation theatres (OT), we need to ensure that both the photographer and the equipment are sterile." "On the photography front, taking photographs in low light and being quick on your feet to ensure that you don't miss a single moment are important factors that define the quality of pictures," Urshita continued. For the photographers, the obstacles don't end here. "Initially, it will be challenging as people are not aware of the concept and are not sure what kind of photographs will be clicked. There are chances that parents might shun off the concept considering the fear of any health complication of the baby, the privacy of the family or the superstitions," Urshita explained. "However, with time the photographer will learn the trick of persuading the parents and ensuring them of proper health and privacy of the family. Once the photographer is able to learn on this persuading expertise, nothing can stop him/her from rising up with this trend," she said. Captured mostly in portrait mode, this genre of photography is all about taking shots during the labour hours till the baby is out of the mother's womb and it takes a lot of effort to get that perfect click. "There is a need to understand that as a photographer, one should be able to carry his/her work unnoticed. It's necessary to ensure that the doctor or any of the medical staff and especially the mother is not being disturbed during the birthing process," she said. She further said, "Unsatisfied customers are a result of demands not met properly or some confusion that pertained even after shoots. Thankfully, no such thing happened with me yet. But, we at InfLens, make sure that parents are completely made aware of the concept, and the photo shoot is done in accordance with their demands in best possible way." So, how does birth photography differ from images taken immediately after birth? "Babies change very quickly in the initial first hour of their birth. It takes at least 20 minutes for the baby to come out of the labour room/ OT. Till the time the baby comes out of the OT, it would have changed; its face less swollen, feet stretched out, the crooked nose would be back in shape, etc," Urshita replied. "Furthermore, inside the OT, one can capture the expression of the mother once she sees her baby for the very first time. Moreover, the 'First Moments' of the baby are inside the labour room/ OT. So it becomes imperative for the Photographer to be present there for locking these precious moments," she continued. Can someone make his/her living solely documenting childbirth? "No. As of now in India, this is not something that can help you sustain a livelihood. Unlike, weddings or birthdays, this is one genre that people are not aware of, and hence the photographer might land up with very few shoots," Urshita said. "But this is what I and my partner, Sahil is out to change. We are aiming at promoting and educating people about this concept and the importance of preserving these memories, as much as we can." Be it photoshopping sonograms onto pregnant bellies or clicking a newborn attached to placenta, babies have become the new favourite for photographers and are ruling our lives, the Internet. According to Urshita, "It is a novel idea of getting photographs clicked with a photoshopped sonogram of the baby on the naked belly. And, I feel it relates pretty well to my genre of birth photography as it can be well used to portray a 'before' and 'after' scenario." Those who are still trying to get around the idea of having a complete stranger documenting a very private moment, MRI birth videos could be your next best option in the future. Talking about whether or not MRI birth videos can give birth photographers a run for money, she said, "No. MRI birth videos can be a part of the process of capturing the birth of the baby. But, birth photography majorly happens just after the baby enters the world. The expressions and the reactions of the parents, as well as the baby, are in focus. Moreover, MRI videos are a representation of how the baby was born while the birth photographers capture what happens before and after the birth of the baby." Mastering this art isn't that easy and so Urshita listed down some points that could help the budding lensmen. She noted, "Birth photography is one genre that is very different from any other kind of photography for a very simple reason, i.e., you cannot predict your shots. You have to be prepared for the unexpected all the time. Yes, photography is the first step to being successful at this concept since you need to know what instrument will best suit your environment; you need to work in low light, etc. Because flashes are a strict no no." - Have immense patience. - Look for any and every movement inside the Labour room/ OT. - Focus on the expressions of the mother, the macro shots of the baby and its features. - Try to capture as many expressions of the baby and the parents as you can. "Keep in mind that you are there to photograph the process and not for interfering or obstructing it. If one ever forgets this rule and interferes in the medical procedure, one's career gets finished then and there only. Make sure your presence in the labor room/OT is not disturbing the doctor, any of the medical staff and most importantly the mother," she added. "Patience is the biggest virtue that one needs to succeed at. Also one needs to understand that every birth is unique and none of the things happening there can ever be in one's control. There's a need to be quick with the work and ensure that no disturbance is caused to anybody in the OT." Urshita concluded, "Birth photography is a new concept in India. But we are pretty sure that it would pick up and soon more people would be interested in getting it done to preserve the first moments of their baby in this world. These are memories that parents, as well as the baby when it grows up, would cherish for a lifetime." (ANI)

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