Has there been a birthing experience you’ve witnessed that really stood out to you, or that’s been really unforgettable?
Just about every family we have captured has been memorable because there is no scripts, no posing, just raw human emotion but we did have one not long ago where the baby was born en caul – which means the sac hadn’t broken yet. It’s a 1 in 80,000 chance to see it. It was beyond amazing. We both have been known to shed a little tear of happiness once the baby is born. There is nothing quite like seeing a baby being born. It never leaves you and we often walk Away feeing so privileged to have witnessed it. Life is so precious.
Are you parents yourselves? What were your birth experiences like?
BEL: We are both mothers. River has three boys, Zion 10, Rome 7 and Knox 5 and I have a daughter who is 2 years old, Sunday.
RIVER: My first birth experience was a bit traumatic to be honest. Ha. I had severe high blood pressure (pre-eclampsia) which meant Zion was born prematurely at 30 weeks. I had been in hospital for a few days until one night they were scared I was about to have a stroke. They quickly wheeled me down to emergency and put me under general anethestic ready for a C section. I was then in intensive care for a couple of days until my blood pressure came down. Zion was also in intensive care because he was so tiny but he fed by himself at 34 weeks and was doing so well that we were allowed to take him home after 3 weeks. It was a crazy season but we got through it and I’m grateful every day that he is with us!
The other two boys came by C sections also, with no complications so that was a huge relief.
How long does it take to compose a shot? How do you pick your moments?
There is nothing quite like seeing a baby being born. It never leaves you. Life is so precious. We often walk away feeling so privileged to have witnessed it. We are working in an environment where there is nothing staged or posed – just powerful, raw human emotion. So capturing that requires your full attention. We are always watching for the tear on the father’s face as he meets his child for the first time, or the relief of the mother when she stops labouring. The joy of life is so evident to everyone in that room, so watching and knowing when to click the button requires you to be fully present. We like to think of ourselves like a ‘fly on the wall’ – capturing humanity’s story as it unfolds. 5. How has the response been around your ongoing series? Becoming a parent is one of the most beautiful and life changing moments in someone’s life. Having it documented in beautiful imagery means they can remember and treasure it forever. When people see the kind of images that we photograph they can’t help but want those moments captured for themselves. Here’s what one of our clients said: “Labour is one of life’s most intense experiences. The anticipation, pain, fear and excitement clouded my ability to fully appreciate what I was going through. Seeing images of Mari’s journey into the world after one month, one year, and now almost three years, I’m taken back to those moments and experience them in new ways. I am reminded of the strength I never knew I was capable of, the depth of emotion on my husband’s face, and that moment – the moment my little love looked up into my eyes and stole my heart.”
Where do you see the project going from here?
We have a big vision for this project. Capturing a parent say their First Hello to their child is incredibly powerful, moving and a huge honour. We would love to continue to document this in different countries and cultures and capture what makes childbirth unique to them. We believe photography can unlock the human heart. We, as creative beings, need to be brave enough to step into those intimate spaces that some may shy away from and capture it. The world needs images that will set hearts on fire more than ever.
To see more of River and Bel’s work, head to The First Hello Project.