Birth Photographer: Capturing Raw Intimate Images of Motherhood

Jaydene Freund is an award-winning birth photographer who has taken photos of over 150 births. Her documentary birth film footage has also been featured in Huggies commercials and documentary films. The main message Jaydene wants women to take away from her photos is that they are strong and capable of doing anything. Her work has been published in publications such as Midwifery Today, Click Magazine, People, Cosmopolitan, Vancouver Sun, and Canadian Family.

Growing up, Jaydene was always interested in art. She never thought she could have a career in the arts, so she studied political science instead. After university, she got married and she and her husband moved to San Francisco. A friend invited Jaydene to her home birth and Jaydene discovered a passion for supporting women during the birth process. From there, she pursued the proper training and became a doula.

“So first I became a doula, and I started attending births, supporting women in a doula role. But it wasn’t long before I started bringing my camera along, and I was completely self-taught from the beginning. I just started taking photos in the birth room. I didn’t really know what I was doing. I came home, looked at those photos and I knew this was the path I wanted to take. That I wanted to be able to capture the story of women’s births, to be able to provide them with that story. So after the first few births that I shot with just my DSLR camera, I started taking classes online. I’m completely self-taught.”

Jaydene is a pioneer in the world of birth photography. Back in 2009, when she started, there were only a handful of people around the world calling themselves birth photographers. When Jaydene founded the Canadian Birth Photographers in 2011, there were only six members. Now there are almost 100 birth photographers in Canada. The industry keeps gaining momentum as a new generation of mothers continue to want to share their birth experiences and preserve priceless memories. In 2017, Jaydene won the the International Association of Professional Birth Photographers Image of the Year Competition for an powerful image she captured of a woman in labour, en route to the hospital, in the midst of a massively painful contraction.

“I have to keep doing it. I know it’s my true calling because if I can keep capturing these births and inspiring women to show them how strong they are, and to show other women how strong they can be, I know I’m doing something beautiful in the world.”

This busy mom of three acknowledges that the lifestyle of a birth photographer isn’t for everyone. “This isn’t a normal job and so you can’t really have a normal lifestyle. I always live on call. You never know when the phone’s going to ring. I might get called out at three in the morning and I might not come back for 20 hours, but there’s something so beautiful about the work that when you do come back and look at the images, you just know that for all the exhaustion that you feel, it was worth it.”

Jaydene wants her photography to empower women.“When I am able to share birth stories, it inspires other women across the globe to research their birthing options, to trust in their body’s innate ability to birth, and to realize birth is a beautiful journey despite unplanned turns and interventions.” But overall, her favourite aspect of shooting births is watching how women process their birth stories and see themselves as more powerful than they did before.

“I have to keep doing it. I know it’s my true calling because if I can keep capturing these births and inspiring women to show them how strong they are, and to show other women how strong they can be, I know I’m doing something beautiful in the world.”

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