Chloe Lodge Birth Photography

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Here at Any Other Woman we want to bring you a range of sponsors.  By the nature of what the blog used to be, many of our sponsors are wedding-related.  But sometimes, a sponsor comes along who does something entirely different.  Different and brave.  Chloe Lodge does that.

Chloe photographs the birth process, the first few moments that a baby comes into the world.

Before I could understand that, I wanted to understand what made Chloe make this move.  It’s a bold one; birth photography is still a relative unknown, and the birth process is so fraught with sensitivity, it’s not something with which all mothers would be comfortable.  What was the inspiration for Chloe to begin this work?  What are the career steps to something like this?  Are there any?    ”Photography has always been a passion of mine but my career took a different path. Following my degree in Art History I headed up to London and worked in the events industry firstly within the banking industry then for a charity called Walk the Walk and then the pinnacle of my career – for Bear Grylls as his right-hand woman. Working in events taught me to think on my feet, to be ready & able to react to situations as and when they arose.  It also strengthened my ability to think outside of the box.”

So Chloe had the personal drive and transferable skills.  But what about the technical ability and confidence behind the camera?  ”The year before we moved to Malaysia we were living in Paris where I completed a Masters in Professional Photography specialising in Photojournalism. My dream was to become a professional photographer. So here I am in South-East Asia, balancing my two dreams and feeling so very fortunate.”

Chloe is mum to Maximus, and lives in Malaysia, a natural half-way point between Britain and New Zealand (from where her husband hails).  As Chloe so succinctly says: “We are here out of choice. A choice made from the desire to find a neutral place that we are both happy and somewhere accessible to both corners of our worlds.”

The birth of her son was the event that made it all click into place.  ”Birth Photography requires all these qualities, and more. Bringing a new life into the world is the most intimate, personal event and as a photographer and a Mother, I am acutely aware of this. Just nine months ago it was my turn to experience child birth for the first time and as a photographic story teller I was so keen to have it captured. The only problem was that I would be the subject and therefore couldn’t shoot. My husband kindly took control of the camera and very patiently (whilst his shouting labouring wife directed) captured some of the moments of my birth story. The saddest thing for me was that he doesn’t feature in any of the images. Those first, tender moments of our son’s life – when three people are the closest they could possibly be – were missed. This, as a birth photographer, is exactly what I dream of capturing for others.”

When I first started talking to Chloe I was firmly in the “this is beautiful.  Not for me, but beautiful” camp.  Until she told me the tale of the first birth she ever photographed.  And this was the poinjt that I knew Chloe was the right kind of sponsor for Any Other Woman.  This was how I knew she would fit you, and us.  Because when she tells the story, through both words and pictures, she captured the details, yes, and the love…but most of all she captures the people.  The people that made the story.  The people that made the story that made the daughter that made the family.

I’l let Chloe tell you, now.

“It was late June when I received the email from Ar’nie. An enquiry I could not have anticipated but looking back now, was such an interesting start to something amazing. I sat looking at the email and saw a phone number, it was 9pm in the evening but I couldn’t wait, so I called her straight away.

The conversation went well, both of us chatting away and discussing the possibilities. After I came off the phone I was a little nervous. I am generally pretty squeamish, I quite often faint at the sight of needles and blood and really hoped I could fulfil Ar’nie’s request – a photographic ‘fly-on-the-wall’ documentary of the water birth of her fourth child.

 
 

I was delighted that through the powers of the internet Ar’nie had found my blog featuring the pictures my husband had taken of my labour. The majority of my work since arriving in KL has been family portraiture, in a documentary style. This was documentary portraiture but on a whole different level. I was delighted to be trusted with such a special moment.

 
 

I had been ready for a week. I had my batteries charged, my kit prepped, bottles of water and snacks all waiting. When the moment came, Ar’nie called me and I raced over to her condo to capture her saying goodbye to her little ones. What I wasn’t prepared for was the fact that this was Wednesday morning and the newest addition to their family wouldn’t be making an appearance until Saturday evening.

My first experience as a birth photographer had begun. I kept my distance and ensured I was unobtrusive as possible. I made sure Ar’nie knew at any point she could ask me to leave the room or simply turn away. We had discussed the images she and I were both comfortable with shooting and focused on those. I was with Ar’nie and her husband for about 24 hours in total, spread over four days AND nights.

 
 

Birthing suites are often small and there is really nowhere to hide and so ultimately I become part of their journey and for this reason we have now formed a connection. I am a consummate professional but this form of photography requires much more than professionalism. It requires sensitivity, adaptability, commitment and passion.

 

The whole journey was phenomenal, however, it was the eventual arrival of little Ariena Ayla which was quite simply breath-taking. Due to the water and Ar’nie’s ability to breath through the pain, it was calm, beautiful… and fast. Returning to the hospital four times, thinking that this time it might be it… and then suddenly it was… and in a series of a few frames Ariena was born. Blink and the moment had happened then everything has changed, a new life had begun.

 
 
 
 
 
 

Did I faint? Absolutely not. Birth is the most natural moment a woman can go through. To be a witness and in the position to capture this for the Mother and Father was truly wonderful and everyone in the room is caught up in the event that there is no time to consider feeling anything other than wonderment.”

I look at these pictures and the right words don’t come.  I want to say masterful.  And powerful.  Sometimes difficult to see.  But what they are above everything else is magical.  They capture a moment that, as a society, we don’t talk about easily. They capture life, and family, and beauty, and vulnerability.

Chloe also captured Ar’nie’s birth story on video.

Photographs like this don’t come easily.  Chloe has to factor in many aspects to shooting a birth, from being ‘on-call’ for two weeks around a Mum-to-be’s due date, to the travelling to and from the location of the birth, to the time she is shooting which could be day or night (babies don’t stick to a schedule, apparently).   Chloe therefore limits the number of commissions she takes on, which enables her to focus everything she has on each birth, “as it so deserves”.

Chloe Lodge Birth Photography has the caption “from the very moment it begins”.  That fits for so many different reasons, not just the birth of a child but to want to be there, capturing those moments, takes courage.  As Chloe says, “I believe there is a definite growing interest from parents and I think the perception of birth photography is changing. Although I can appreciate it is not for everyone, it is something so unique and with the right photographer it can truly be unobtrusive and beautiful. The way I shoot is to focus on the emotion of the journey, the relationships and interaction of those involved AND of course, those first few breaths of the little one. A brand new life, the start of everything. A moment of joy, relief, elation.”

So it’s brave, and it’s bold, and it’s different, and it’s challenging.  In short, what Chloe does is perfect Any Other Woman material. I asked Chloe what she thought about the fit between her and you, and us:

“From where I sit I understand AOW readers as women after my own heart. They are strong and independent. They have an appreciation for beauty, both natural and raw. They have a heart and a big one at that. And they live in the moment but also love to cherish the past and are hopeful for the future. If anyone has an appreciation for birth photography and all the things it is, it’s your readers. Even those who might be a bit bashful or body shy I truly believe they have the foresight to embrace this relatively new genre of photography.”

Couldn’t have said it better myself.

So readers, if this is something you’ve ever wondered about, if this is something you think you’d like to try, then I know that Chloe would be happy to guide you through it.  If we can help just one reader capture that moment that defies description, then we’d be so very happy.

 
 

Bookmark Chloe’s blog.  It is beautiful. You may recognise one particular  natural in front of the camera.  Oh, and Emmi.

Chloe’s Facebook page is here, and you can follow her on Twitter here.

If Ar’nie’s water birth captured your attention, you can find out more about water births here.

Categories: Sponsored Posts
17 interesting thoughts on this

17 Comments

  1. Katie
    Posted November 5, 2012 at 2:45 pm | Permalink

    Just WOW. The photos are powerful and beautiful. I’m speachless, and not able to make a proper comment.

    xx

    • Chloe
      Posted November 5, 2012 at 2:55 pm | Permalink

      Thank you Katie – I feel the same when I look at them even though I was there.

  2. Katielase
    Posted November 5, 2012 at 5:42 pm | Permalink

    They are amazing. I went into this post thinking “not sure I would want to be photographed at that time in my life”, but I am completely converted. The pictures are magical, I got shivers up and down my spine.

    K x

    • Chloe
      Posted November 6, 2012 at 12:02 am | Permalink

      Thank you Katielase, it’s such a strange concept for many which is why I love sharing these x

  3. Posted November 5, 2012 at 8:21 pm | Permalink

    I want to start by saying these photos are truly incredible but absolutely not for me in terms of having this done for myself. Am I allowed to say that in the comments? I’ve been trying to word it all day and these are my main thoughts:

    1. I hated labour. I hate thinking about it, I don’t talk about it. Would I ever want to look at photos of it? Absolutely not. I can barely look at photos of George at his tiniest without feeling a bit weird. But I guess if it had been more straightforward and less horrific then maybe that wouldn’t be a problem for me.

    2. If anything happened to the baby you’d want these photos SO badly. Again I probably shouldn’t say that in the comments when so many people are pregnant. But you really, really would.

  4. Posted November 5, 2012 at 8:36 pm | Permalink

    Oh man, I’ve got comment guilt. I hope that came out right because I really wasn’t being negative.

    I think this is a really brave and wonderful thing to do for the right people.

    • Chloe
      Posted November 5, 2012 at 11:58 pm | Permalink

      Please, please don’t have comment guilt. I agree – 100% with your words. This type of photography is not for everyone. When I had Max nine months ago, I was afraid of labour, excited but afraid. I had no idea what it was going to be like and the more conversations I have had with ladies since, the more I realise that I was fortunate enough to have a straight-forward labour. To have hired a birth photographer for my first experience of childbirth, it would have been a bold thing to do, but since having had one and having begun the process of shooting this amazing time in three people’s lives I would absolutely hire one for my next birth.

      Ofcourse if things start to take a turn for the worst, I would hope that my photographer would start to be even more selective of the shots taken. If the absolute worst happened, then as hard as the pictures were to look at, I would be so very grateful for them in the long term. However, if things (as they more often do) went well and its natural, beautiful, challenging and emotional but a lovely normal birth then I would embrace the images taken 100%.

      I really am not trying to sell you birth photography. Its really so very, very personal, I’m not a hard-sell photographer for starters and for birth photography I am absolutely not. It requires a great deal of investment; personally, emotionally, in time and in money for both Mum and me so it has to be right.

      Sharing is caring – I don’t think so! This moment is extraordinarily intimate and not for everyone’s eyes or for every social media platform. The Mum who I shot here is very pro-natural births (here in Asia there is an extremely high, too high, rate of intervention) and part of the reason she hired me was to share. Share her experience and to encourage others to consider pushing rather than automatically checking in for a section. Also, as it was her fourth child she knew it would be her last opportunity. However, the way I see it – any images I shoot are yours to share or not share, yours to look at or not look at. I can appreciate that to hang some of them on your living room wall would be a little out-there but there are some which so beautifully capture a moment, then why not?

      Let me give you an example – there is a shot within the slideshow of a pair of white boots. When a lot of people look at the images – they ask, why the boots? Well, there is a story behind the boots – the doctor is known to put them on ‘when it’s time’. So during your labour, when you think it’s time, unless the doctor puts his boots on he doesn’t believe that you’re ready. For many Mums who have this particular doctor, they laugh at the boots shot remembering a moment of relief – thank god, he has the boots on, this baby is coming out! I love this shot, this to me is a shot you could hang on your kitchen wall or in your downstairs toilet, wherever, because to most, its a pair of white rubber boots but to you, it was ‘the time’ when your little one was about to arrive – the last few moments before the first few moments of your newborn’s life.

      As a birth photographer its these little details which are so important. It’s really just an extension of wedding photography, that moment when you say I do and kiss for the first time as husband and wife is key to a wedding, the union but for many, its all the other in-between moments too. The look between Mum and daughter as you marry your prince, the rings that you have pain-stakingly selected to be worn everyday from that moment on, the place names you lovingly made by hand every evening after work and the tear in the groom’s eye when he is saying his speech and saying how much he loves you and is happy he found you. For me, birth photography is about all of these things, the context is just a little different.

      Anna, thank you for being honest. It’s why I love AOW and it’s why I proudly support this amazing community of intelligent, free-thinking women who have opinions and know what they want. x

      • Posted November 6, 2012 at 9:49 pm | Permalink

        Thank you for such a great reply. I think you’re right about it being more likely someone who’s already had a baby choosing this. There are so many unknowns with the first that it would be a very brave thing to do.

        • Clare
          Posted November 7, 2012 at 9:05 am | Permalink

          I’ve said the same to Chloe – I would never have wanted one for my first birth. No thank you. There are just way too many unknowns. Now though (and I know this is all down to the fact that my experience in labour was a positive one), I would absolutely have a photographer there. I look at those pictures that Chloe took of Ar’nie and imagine if I had them of Emmi’s birth, how amazing it would be to look back at them and to be transported back to that moment.

          This is such a great discussion. It’s so interesting to hear other people’s opinions on it…

  5. Vivienne
    Posted November 6, 2012 at 6:53 am | Permalink

    Birth Photography is really starting to take off in America, and I would have loved to have one for my (still imminent) birth but it hasn’t quite hit this corner of Scotland yet!

    Beautiful pics as always Chloe xxx

    • Chloe
      Posted November 8, 2012 at 12:39 pm | Permalink

      Thank you Vivienne, I am part of a Birth Photography facebook – almost all the photographers on there are from the US! There are some really amazing things happening there – the work that I see is astounding and beautiful. I will ask if there is anyone in Scotland if you like. xx

  6. Katie
    Posted November 6, 2012 at 3:22 pm | Permalink

    Incredible, gave me goose bumps.

    • Chloe
      Posted November 8, 2012 at 12:39 pm | Permalink

      Thank you Katie x

  7. Posted November 6, 2012 at 6:11 pm | Permalink

    Fantastic piece Chloe! I eagerly awaited the photographs of Ar’nie’s labour and they didn’t disappoint!

    This is definitely something I would both consider for myself if I become a mother and as a photographer it is something I am considering offering to mums to be. I love the bit about the white boots.

    Of course its not for everyone. I can’t imagine this becoming mainstream, which just makes it all the more special for the people who go for it, in my view. Most people are happy with a noisy and potentially out of focus snap on a phone after the event, when your baby is all wrapped up. You aren’t going to convince those people that it is worth the investment. But I just cant imagine being content with such an important moment being recorded like that. For me it’s not just about the end result shown on a posed photo. What’s clear in these photographs is that it’s about the story of the transition, the emotions of labour and birth. However hard, however gritty.

    I have heard from UK birth photographers that you can come up against some opposition within the NHS, so I wonder if it might be better suited to those having home births if your local hospital or midwife run unit objects?

    • Chloe
      Posted November 8, 2012 at 12:35 pm | Permalink

      Lucy, I whole-heartedly agree with you about the fact that it won’t become main stream. And like you I feel that’s what will keep it being so very special and unique to those who embrace it. I could never imagine you being content with noisy, out of focus phone pictures of any possible mini-Stendalls. I am just gutted I can’t be in the UK for you, I would love to capture that moment.

      In regards to the home births vs hospital births – yes, there are some hospitals here which won’t even entertain the thought so an up-hill battle so ensues! My most recent client has actually moved hospitals to give us more of a chance of making it happen, here’s hoping. Will keep you posted on that one!

  8. Liz
    Posted November 7, 2012 at 2:12 pm | Permalink

    Bit late to comment here as I went through my own birth story last wednesday and now am the very proud mum of little Tessa! She is adorable!
    Having been through labour very recently I have to agree with most of the other comments here, as a first birth I don’t think I could have signed up to someone taking pictures of the experience as I just didn’t know what to expect or how I would deal with it. I ended up very lucky with a quick and smooth water birth (no pain relief, no stiches – woo hoo!). Now thinking back it would be incredible to have pictures of our very first cuddles with her, we were so wrapped up in the moment (quite rightly, those first moments as a new family are incredible)that we didn’t think to get the camera out for quite a while. I guess something to think about if there is ever baby number 2!

    • Chloe
      Posted November 8, 2012 at 12:29 pm | Permalink

      Liz, many congratulations of the birth of little Tessa. Wow, and you have time to read and comment on my post. Thank you, thank you. Ironically though, I remember that first week too, I baked flapjacks. Baked flapjacks? I then subsequently didn’t have time to bake a potato, let alone flapjacks for the next three months. I think its partly because I was a fairly disorganised new Mum and am sure you will have everything down to a smooth flowing Motherly dream – if your birth was anything to go by.

      Anyway, back to the photography. Yes, I agree too. Hiring someone for your first time round would be scary and so much pressure, but as many Mothers find, it’s actually not so scary and would be simply amazing. That feeling of becoming first time parents, wow, a moment to capture forever. And like you, for No.2, if there is one then I wouldn’t hesitate.

      Happy days as a new Mum, enjoy these newborn moments. They are amazing. xx

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Hello! We're Clare, Aisling and Anna and welcome to a corner of the world where smart, flawed, real women talk about the bigger picture; about their experiences, stories and opinions on all aspects of being a woman today, from marriage to feminism to pretty, too.

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image by Lucy Stendall Photography

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