We were fortunate to sit down with Middle TN photographer and film maker Kalli Pavon of Kalimana Film Stories recently. She shared some great insight into birth photography and showed us once again why we treasure our time at births with her!
A: What is it about birth photography that makes you want to do it?
K: For me, it's all about the impact it makes on the family afterward. I've received feedback that has left me in tears. Though wonderful, I don't mean the "oohs" and "ahhs" ... it's when a new mom tells me how weak she felt, yet looking at her video she feels like superwoman. She's able to get the chance to see what others saw. And it's not gross or painful to watch, but strong, awe-inspiring, and beautiful. I live for hearing that something I did helped her change her self-perception. Also... dads!! Usually just "going along with birth coverage" for his wife at first, dads become my biggest supporters afterward. They usually talk about how grateful they are that they were part of the story instead of the one holding the camera. That's what makes me want to keep doing what I do.
A: Where is your favorite place to shoot (specific hospital, homebirth, etc) and why?
K: This one is tough. I have so many special experiences with a variety of clients who have delivered in a variety of places. I will say it is easier for a woman to forget I am present when she is delivering without pain medication. I enjoy those (wherever it may be) since I am able to "disappear" more easily, and capture the story as it happens. On the other hand, when clients have an epidural, while documenting without being noticed is more of a challenge, they're a great experience as well since we chat more, and usually get a bit of story-dialogue while they're laboring. I love the variety of home birth. It's always different. There is movement, colors, etc... Over the last year and a half I have had several opportunities to capture births at Baby & Company in Nashville. That has been a treat. It's definitely a beautiful space to birth, and I've really loved the aesthetic of the photographs and videos of births there.
A: Tell about your process in getting those beautiful shots during labor and birth?
K: My first priority at a birth (even before getting the shots) is to sync my interaction & movement with the needs of the laboring mother. Usually this means quietly (but quickly) setting my things in a corner, getting the camera ready, and very slowly & calmly beginning to document (unless she's pushing... ;) ). Many times I'll walk into the room without being acknowledged, and that's perfectly acceptable to me. I want mom to be able to focus on the work she has in front of her to bring baby into the world. Sometimes we chat between contractions, if mom wants to. Sometimes we don't even look at each other until she grins up at me with a baby in her arms, and says "Did you get it!!??" Sometimes (during delivery) there can be lots of movement, and I'll be darting around on the outside to find the best angle - sometimes between two bodies, sometimes standing on a chair, or at the head of the bed! ;) It's a fun challenge. I could go on forever about my "process," but those are the parts that come to mind at the moment.
A: Do you have a favorite birth?
K: Several. :)
A: How long have you been doing birth photography?
K: My first birth was in September 2011.
A: Color or B/W? Why?
K: Color. :) There are some projects I will do in black & white, but I love color. As much as I admire black & white birth photography (there is so much, and it's beautiful), I've always preferred my own work in color. I'm not exactly sure, but a few times when I've played with doing a video in black and white, I felt like something was missing. Maybe the life or energy felt dulled. I'm not sure! I will occasionally convert some images to black & white, especially if a client requests it.
A: Can you show us some of your favorite shots?
K: Here are three favorites from a recent birth. A favorite recent video is this one: https://vimeo.com/album/2393881/video/149474043.
A: Do most people cry when they see the final product? We do every time you post something new!
K: Tearing up is very common. As mentioned above, seeing their response is a priceless moment for me. :)
A: How early should people contact you to book services?
K: I've had clients hire me anywhere from 6 weeks along to 41 weeks! Earlier is definitely better because we get the chance to document more of the story! Pregnancy announcements, gender reveals, setting up the nursery, waiting on baby, etc... There are so many special moments that can be re-lived later if caught on video & photography!
A: Is there anything parents need to know about how birth photography works?
K: I have an FAQ sheet at http://www.kalimana.com/birth-faq that goes over lots of good info. Basically I go on call for 4 weeks around their due-date, head their way around active labor, stay for at least 2 hours after delivery, and send a sneak peek their way soon after birth. Once the photos & video(s) are finished, they get to view them privately first, and have a few days to love on them. Then they can request any tweaks to the video to make it something they feel completely comfortable with, if they are choosing to share it.
To see more photos (http://www.kalimana.com/birthphotography) and videos (https://vimeo.com/album/2393881)