A couple of months ago during an amazing home birth, I took a photo that was my first really 'successful' online image. I loved, and still love, everything about this photo. It shows the beauty of birth. How it CAN be. The mom looked amazing, the baby was born in water and there was very little blood. Mom had really wanted a photo of the baby still attached to the placenta and, as he was quite happy attached to her breast, we decided to position the placenta on her belly.
Yes it's a 'posed' shot. But not as much as one might imagine. The last minute hand on the breast was to allow us an easy share on social media, a land where nipples are not free and that exposure would mean an alteration of the image in order to share. The midwife placed the heart-shaped placenta onto her belly and the shot was taken. Who knew the impact it was going to have. The image was shared thousands of times and this birth was featured in the popular Cafemom blog!
In January 2017 it went without saying that I would enter this image into an International birth competition. I am proud of this photograph and all it portrays. From the pink baby to the breastfeeding to the beauty of the mother. I wanted to show that birth was beautiful, that breastfeeding was normal and that placentas are pretty awesome. Little did I know that someone who had copied my image at the request of another birthing mama, would enter her exact copy into the same competition.
This post isn't to blast that photographer. I really wanted to in the first few days after the competition became public, but I truly believe that she thought that because her eye was behind the camera when her image was taken, it counted as inspiration not copying. From a legal perspective, you can't copyright a pose, and I understood that from the very beginning. I implored the organizer of the competition to look at this from an ethical point of view. The other image wasn't an original work of art. The photographer had been requested to recreate my image and the contest asked for original work. From a legal standpoint and the inability to copyright photography, I was ignored.
Not only was I ignored, I was then castigated by the organization as copying my image in the first place - because I had dared to admit that I had been inspired to place the placenta on the belly. So - copying or inspiration? Where is the line drawn? There are incredible birth photographers all over the world, sharing their art and inspiring others to be the best they can be. To be inspired is to take someone's art and use that as a tool to form your own artwork. Your own photography. I don't take people's work and recreate it, my photography is more meaningful to me than that. I want to be my own artist and I have worked hard over the last few years to make my own name for myself in my area and have people enjoy my work.
Now, it might seem like I'm being petty but really, you need to look at the images side by side before you judge me. I promise you, once you do, you will see what I'm talking about.
Needless to say I am no longer a part of the organization who claimed to care for it's members and then turned on one when they disagreed with what they did. The world of birth photography is far bigger and far better than one organization. There are amazing people doing amazing things with birth images. These are my inspiration. These are the people who matter to me and whose opinions of me also matter. And I will always stand up for my work.
So please - be inspired by me, copy me if you must, but please understand the difference between the two and don't use copied work to enter competitions.
All images in this blog are the copyrighted work of Lindsey Welch Photography.
Lindsey Welch is a birth photographer working with families in Frederick MD and surrounding areas. She is passionate about pregnancy, birth and breastfeeding and is also a certified doula, certified Childbirth Educator and birth coach. You can follow her motherhood photography on Instagram.