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Birth Photography

retro | intro -spective | by +Elaine

I’ve have lots of names. lainie, e, shorty, laine brain, nain. and now I’m +elaine. and I like it.

getting an updated portfolio together had me sifting through all my intern shoots. and reviewing what I had in my portfolio before. hard to believe there was even a time in my photography life before my leahandmark internship. it’s amazing to see where I was with my skills and knowledge and experience then. and where I am now.

before, I was hired for the occasional gig, but mostly I just showed up everywhere with my camera. parties, the pool, backyard concerts, school events, playdates, parks. but now my work is filled with babies and children and couples and drag queens. product shoots of granola and books and headbands and dresses and shoes and bread and houses. people new to the country, or on stage speaking or rocking out, or getting married, or breaking boards. models crouched in trunks and strutting on runways and posing in rotted out buses and old trains. so much cooler.

I look back on my “before the internship” work and my “during” work, and now that I’m in the “after” phase, I can’t wait to see what what my portfolio will be filled with next.

with a new role as a + at comes a new blog location. no longer in the intern section, mark told +krista, +mishaun and me to (re)introduce ourselves. coming up with 200 pictures to whittle down to 20 for our portfolios, posting a blog and showcasing our work… all of this reminds me of the incredulity I felt the first night as an intern when mark told us we had to have 20 images and a blog up by that monday morning. 20 IMAGES! it seemed a ridiculous amount and there was no way I had that many images that were good enough. and just like then, once I got a grip and settled down to work, I find I have more than enough pictures I’m happy to use to fill my portfolio and to post on the blog as I introduce myself. again.

so hi, I’m + elaine, and I’m happy you’re here. now let’s get shooting.

Joelle’s Birth by +Jo | Atlanta Newborn Baby Photographer | Birth Photographer | Jo Arellanes

– Posted by +Jo

A few months back I was contacted by LeeAnn about doing a maternity shoot in Arkansas. Eventually, through many texts and emails, it was decided there would be maternity, birth and new born sessions. | Atlanta Newborn Baby Photographer | Birth Photographer | Jo Arellanes

Man was this crazy to plan. And timing had to be just right.

I go home to Arkansas once a year and this year’s window was even slimmer because my boyfriend traveled with me. We were really lucky he received a week off from work and only had a short amount of time we would be in the state. I read up on the birth of the first child to understand what I was getting myself into. It also help me know what to expect out of LeeAnn and her husband. As her final weeks drew near she would update me more and more on her OB appointments and progression. The week before I left for Arkansas she started to have prodromal contractions. Right on cue – the same thing happened with her first child. Everyday I would check in – LeeAnn would give me numbers or let me know if things were good. Finally, I made it into town. We were all on edge and I did the maternity session within 24 hours of arriving in the state.

       They have such a cute little family. And they were about to gain one more. Did I mention – she wanted a henna tatto on her belly? Yup. So, I gave here a design we put together. It wasn’t as dark as either of us hoped, but she was happy to have it for the photos.

Once that was checked off the list, the waiting continued. I was worried after a couple days had gone by and nothing much had changed. Her contractions were a little more intese but would let up by the evening. But luck was on our side.

Tuesday night my boyfriend came down with a bug and I was up late making sure he was okay. I don’t know when I fell asleep but at 5:52 am I received a call from LeeAnn’s husband, Nick. She was in full labor and they were heading to Birth Works. Last time she labored for a few hours at the clinic before she was taken to the hospital for the final part of labor. I thought about the time it takes into Little Rock and early morning traffic. I also thought about how comfy bed was at that particular moment. Finally the thought of missing the birth drove me out of bed and into the bathroom. I was brushing my teeth when I received a text from Nick at 6:07 am: “Headed to the hospital in just a few minutes.” They live in the town next to my parents and I knew it would be a 20-30 minute drive into Little Rock. ‘Hospital’ meant LeeAnn was progressing faster in her labor than everyone was expecting. I spat out the toothpaste and went into high gear. I fought with my clothes and almost ran out the door without shoes. | Atlanta Newborn Baby Photographer | Birth Photographer | Jo Arellanes | Atlanta Newborn Baby Photographer | Birth Photographer | Jo Arellanes

At 6:49am I was parking my car at the hospital. I made it up to the delivery floor with another text saying “Room 5 in L&D.” What was not mentioned was the locked door that could only be opened by calling the nurses on a specific phone on the wall. I was not awake enough and it felt like I spent 10 minutes trying to get through the one door. It wasn’t really… it was the adrenaline screwing with my head. I made it through and waltzed into the labor room. LeeAnn was on all fours, moaning loudly (not screaming), and the baby was crowning. | Atlanta Newborn Baby Photographer | Birth Photographer | Jo Arellanes | Atlanta Newborn Baby Photographer | Birth Photographer | Jo Arellanes

I stared. Uncontrollably.

Then a part of my brain punched the crap out of the other part and I thew down my coat, scarf and yanked out my camera from my bag. The night before I had done long exposure night photography. I switched the settings with out thinking about what I was doing. I turned around and started snapping pictures. No warm up. No cordial hellos. No prepping the mom, dad and hospital staff. Just GO. I shot everything on my 35mm prime and the lens it quite loud. The nurses gave me some nasty looks with the first couple pictures. I simply said “I’m here for them… I’ll hide in a corner.” | Atlanta Newborn Baby Photographer | Birth Photographer | Jo Arellanes | Atlanta Newborn Baby Photographer | Birth Photographer | Jo Arellanes | Atlanta Newborn Baby Photographer | Birth Photographer | Jo Arellanes

The doctor barely got his gloves and apron (thingy) on before Joelle broke into the world. I have no clue how I feel about what I saw. It’s not the first birth I’ve seen. It was the first human birth. I don’t know how I looked… I’m sure I was making all sorts of faces. It was surreal… the camera was my eyes. What I saw is what I captured. I didn’t want to have my opinion, presumptions, life choices or history effect the photos. I wanted to capture exactly what I saw. The simple truth of Joelle’s birth. | Atlanta Newborn Baby Photographer | Birth Photographer | Jo Arellanes | Atlanta Newborn Baby Photographer | Birth Photographer | Jo Arellanes | Atlanta Newborn Baby Photographer | Birth Photographer | Jo Arellanes

She came into the world with a head full of dark hair. She came into the world quiet and loud. She came into the world with two of the most loving parents. She came into the world via a mother who insisted on it being completely natural – no IVs, no epidural – just her and mother nature. She came into the world to a proud father and a kind brother. She came into this world loved completely.

At 6:57am on December 14th, 2011, Joelle Rose was born.

It was raw beauty. | Atlanta Newborn Baby Photographer | Birth Photographer | Jo Arellanes

I was so honored so be apart of this moment. When I finally sat down, I realized I was the first person to take Joelle’s picture. That simple concept took my breath away. How silly – of all things? Out of the millions of photos she will appear in across her lifetime… I took the very first one. | Atlanta Newborn Baby Photographer | Birth Photographer | Jo Arellanes | Atlanta Newborn Baby Photographer | Birth Photographer | Jo Arellanes | Atlanta Newborn Baby Photographer | Birth Photographer | Jo ArellanesI photographed life.

Damn. I want to do that again.


BabyRoX is Born | by Mark

– Posted by Mark

(Read Leah’s Version of BabyRoX’s Birth, Here.)

First – it’s F*cking AMAZING that I now have a son. Mind blowing.

Second – I’m so glad that Leah wanted a home birth. Partly because I don’t really like hospitals and then also because the home birth WAS AMAZING. Seriously. I had great coffee, good food, my computer, and the absolute best part was that a few hours after BabyRoX was born – everyone left and it was just US THREE (plus our cats!)

One night we went to bed without a baby, the next night hey, WE HAVE A BABY! And we’re home. No spending the night in the hospital, no hanging out with strangers that just tell us to do things that we probably don’t want to do (doctors/nurses and their medical interventions.) I know the whole ‘birth experience’ is about the mother since well, they’re the ones physically giving birth – but damn – I had a pretty great home birth experience.

Oh – and did I mention how it was so low cost that we paid for it all out of pocket? Not that we had a choice (ha, try getting an insurance company to pay for a home birth!) Now I know that our lives have gone from simple office-worker-dreaming-of-being-artsy to full-time-photographers-that-give-birth-at-home, but if you had asked me a few years ago what I thought about home births… I don’t know what I would’ve said.


Natural Home Birth | Water Birth | Midwife | Doula | Atlanta | Georgia |

The whole week was a little bit stressful. BabyRoX had been sort of ‘early’ the entire time of the pregnancy (showing, moving, generally seeming like he was going to be ‘ready’, early) – but I had a wedding that coming Saturday. If he was going to come early, he had until Wednesday, well – Thursday at the latest, otherwise he would have to come after Saturday. (ha. because babies totally conform to schedules.)

On Tuesday, some guts or something came out of Leah (you know, bloody mucus stuff) and yeah – she pretty much knew that he was going to be coming early, and SOON. We sort of scrambled to finish getting ready (nursery, supplies, rescheduling portrait sessions) – and then things calmed down a little. Until the middle of the next morning (Wednesday). And then around 11am, the real contractions started coming on. Two minutes a part, with 1 minute in between (You actually time contractions from the beginning of one contraction, to the beginning of the next contraction, not when they end in between.)

We called our Midwife (Charlotte) and then texted our Doula (Becca) and they all came over.

Natural Home Birth | Water Birth | Midwife | Doula | Atlanta | Georgia |

Now let me tell you about Charlotte. She’s pretty badass. But that’s what you want in a midwife right? It’s what we wanted.

Look. When you hire me as your photographer, I want you to know that I’ll take care of everything, and do anything to get the shots. To make the beautiful photos and to just PWN all things photo.

Charlotte has been doing this for over 20 years – she can deliver breach, twins, ninjas, samurai, everything – and if something is wrong, she’ll either be able to handle it with her master midwife skills, or she’ll TELL YOU TO GO TO THE HOSPITAL. And if she tells you to go to the hospital, that means YOU NEED TO GO TO THE HOSPITAL. No hesitation, no wavering, just FULL-ON Knowing What She’s Doing.

And that’s what you want from THE PERSON DELIVERING YOUR BABY. Right? Right.

Natural Home Birth | Water Birth | Midwife | Doula | Atlanta | Georgia |

So everyone arrived, Becca started taking care of Leah and helping her through the ‘laboring’ part (the 12 hours leading up to the literal 13th hour) – and Charlotte and her team finished setting up, turning our nursery into a delivery room. Personally – I’m grateful that Becca was there because it was a big help to be able to sort of tag-team taking care of Leah over those 13 hours.

I’m sure that Charlotte and her team would’ve taken on that role if Becca hadn’t been there, but since she was there, they actually just stayed in the nursery/birth room with the door closed. Periodically they’d come out and check on the baby’s heart rate (just by listening and watching a clock, no fetal monitor here! (Machine that goes Ping!)) – and then they’d go back into the nursery and close the doors (mostly to keep the cats out though.) I’m pretty sure that they also just wanted to stay out of the way, and not remind Leah that she had 4 people there just waiting for her to give birth. In total, they were all there for a little over 15 hours, and they were all very patient with Leah, never rushing anything.

In fact – Charlotte kept stalling when Leah was requesting to get into the birth tub – because she didn’t want her to get in too early and have the warm water drain all of her energy that she would need to PUSH.

Then they told me that the birth tub required 140 gallons of hot water – and then I realized that we only had a 40 gallon water heater. From the very beginning, Leah’s contractions were 2 minutes apart (Star to Start) – so we all kind of thought that things could happen very soon.

And if there wasn’t enough water in the birth tub, then Leah wasn’t going to be able to give birth there. SO. I started boiling water. LOTS OF WATER. Using everything I could use. Even the coffee maker. (Although looking back, I could’ve also used the microwave.)

Natural Home Birth | Water Birth | Midwife | Doula | Atlanta | Georgia |

Natural Home Birth | Water Birth | Midwife | Doula | Atlanta | Georgia |

In total – I boiled upwards of 25 gallons of water. Hardly a dent in the 140 gallons needed – but boiling water added to cooler water is still hot, and we only needed the tub to be at a steady 100 degrees (the baby is going from a warm body that’s around 98.6 to a warm body of water around 100 degrees so that it’s not as shocking, and you know, just a little bit more comfortable for them 🙂

Atlanta Home Birth | Water Birth |

Backing up – when we decided to do a home birth, we decided that in order to increase the chance of a successful experience (health baby, not needing to go to the hospital, proper positioning of the baby, etc.) – we would do everything we could BEFORE BabyRoX was born instead of having to deal with complications during and after.

I mean – it makes sense right? As much preventative care as possible. So right from when she got pregnant, she started seeing a chiropractor, and started eating super super healthy. The eating healthy part is obvious – but I hadn’t ever thought of a chiropractor as part of maternal care. But again – it makes sense right? I mean the body goes through A LOT of changes during pregnancy, especially in the pelvic and spine area – so it would make sense to keep those areas ‘aligned’ properly, so that the baby has an easier time coming out, and less chance of being in the wrong position.

So she started seeing Dr. Danielle – and that, along with the healthy diet and supplements and cutting out bad/unnatural food things, I believe really helped in ensuring that our plan of having a home birth was going to happen.

We spent as much money as we could upfront, before the baby was born, so that we wouldn’t have to spend that money on hospital interventions that require more interventions to fix the first ones. Alright. Enough of that talk. Moving on…

Atlanta Home Birth | Water Birth |

So. We’re Photographers. It seems like we’d obviously want a ‘birth photographer’ there to record the birth of BabyRoX – and we did have one lined up, and even a back up for her. But when things started really happening, after the birth team arrived… I just didn’t feel like having yet another person there. So I just started sneaking photos with my phone – which was actually much better since there was no shutter sound and I could just put it down really fast if I needed to.)

What we did decide to do was hand one of our cameras over to Becca right when the birth was happening so that she could take the photos. I locked the settings on one of the cameras we use for weddings, told her to be steady, and start shooting. We got lucky – because Becca took some beautiful photos.

Atlanta Home Birth | Water Birth |

Oh yeah. I was also ‘tweeting’ the entire time – posting messages on Twitter. I DID NOT TELL LEAH I was doing this – but luckily she found it kind of funny afterwards 😉

@LeahAndMark | Birth team is here at our apartment. Also. 140 gallons is a lot of hot water (water birth in our home.)

@LeahAndMark | So. We have a midwife, her 2 assistants, and a doula. I am so very grateful, otherwise I would have to actually be doing something… 😉

@LeahAndMark | Also. The crew ordered Thai food! I get a baby AND Thai food tonight!

@LeahAndMark | Also. I’m really great at boiling gallons and gallons of water. Fast.

@LeahAndMark | I probably shouldve read more of those books Leah bought. Luckily we hired the right professionals. Like me and photos. Well. They’re A LOT NICER.

@LeahAndMark | Our cats have been doing very well tonight. (Their names are OneTwo & ThreeFour). Almost jumped into the birth tub.

@LeahAndMark | Also. Ikea sells 100 count packs of tea lights for that dramatic 100 candle birth scene.

@LeahAndMark | Man, you must REALLY love photos if your hire a Birth Photographer… changed my mind about having one today.

@LeahAndMark | Except for my rescheduled e-session tomorrow, BabyRoX is making perfect timing for Saturday’s wedding. Was worried about that one.

@LeahAndMark | How good is Leah? Our windows are open and she’s in labor. And we live in an apartment complex. Damn.

@LeahAndMark | Also. I suppose I’m about to have a REAL reason to Win at this photography business thing. I’ll need an upgraded propaganda machine.

@LeahAndMark | Leah’s doing the ‘Ommmmmm’ thing. I wonder if our neighbors think we’re playing chanting music, with lots of bass.

@LeahAndMark | It’s too bad Leah’s not in the mood to hear me sing ‘This Woman’s Work‘, my falsetto is quite awesome.


@LeahAndMark | Moving to the big birth tub.

@LeahAndMark | Everything is great! 12:35am Jonah Gabriel Rox Tioxon. Born.

@LeahAndMark | Damn. Giving birth is NO JOKE. That was badass.

@LeahAndMark | Um. A baby was just born here. And now everyone’s left and it’s just us. At home. This is fantastic.

Natural Home Birth | Water Birth | Midwife | Doula | Atlanta | Georgia |


Natural Home Birth | Water Birth | Midwife | Doula | Atlanta | Georgia |

Natural Home Birth | Water Birth | Midwife | Doula | Atlanta | Georgia |

Natural Home Birth | Water Birth | Midwife | Doula | Atlanta | Georgia |

Natural Home Birth | Water Birth | Midwife | Doula | Atlanta | Georgia |

Natural Home Birth | Water Birth | Midwife | Doula | Atlanta | Georgia |

Now I know not every birth is like this. Not all of them go so well.

I’m extremely grateful that BabyRoX was born with no problems, that he’s healthy, and that everything worked out (and I that I got to shoot that wedding!)

Atlanta Home Birth | Water Birth |

Atlanta Home Birth | Water Birth |

Atlanta Home Birth | Water Birth |

Atlanta Home Birth | Water Birth |

Hey. I have a son. That’s. Just. Too. Awesome.



Natural Birth. Water Birth. Father. Dad. Point of View. Perspective. Midwife. Doula.

Baby RoX Tioxon

Atlanta Birth Photographer | | Newborn | Water Birth | Home Birth

12:35 a.m., November 10th, 2011

Baby RoX Tioxon. 

Born at home.

Atlanta Birth Photographer | | Newborn | Water Birth | Home Birth

Atlanta Birth Photographer | | Newborn | Water Birth | Home Birth


Friday by + Debra | The Beauty of Birth

The Beauty of Birth can be a strange concept to somebody who hasn’t had a child.  It’s one of those life experiences that you sometimes have to experience to fully grasp.  After all, it is a slightly messy and often times uncomfortable situation.  Above all the neccessary muckiness of birth, there is something timeless and potent about the experience.   When a baby is born, you are reminded that you, as a human, with all your intelligence and opinion are simply an animal, and at the mercy and compassion of the animal that you are.

A year ago, I had never seen anything being born.  I never would have predicted that I would become a birth photographer, I never in a million years thought it would be an experience I would cherish.  I was the type of person who liked babies, but always felt they were that much cuter in somebody elses arms.  My partner expressed concern once while I was pregnant.  He noticed I didn’t fawn over babies, or baby things.  I didn’t have a nursery planned out, or extensive knowledge on babies, birth, or even child rearing.  Having a child of my own, that has changed drastically.

Having a child changes everything.

When I was pregnant, I heard over and over again, “having a baby changes everything”, but I never anticipated just how much a baby would change me.  No amount of book reading, life coaching, dreaming and pondering would have prepared me for the changes in my heart and mind, the growth of spirit and heart that would occur, and is still going on.

When a baby is born, a mommy and daddy are born also.

It’s true that birth is a life process, and it can be a bit messy.  It is also a spiritual process, a change of heart.  A parents mind, body, heart, and soul grow and stretch and expand to make room for the small life you are entrusted with.  A baby changes EVERYTHING.  Your whole lifestyle changes, your sleeping patterns change.  They way you spend money changes.  Babies aren’t expensive, the things you want to give your children, those can be expensive.  Babies themselves need love, plain and simple, to thrive, and that comes free.

I went from being non chalant about taxes, politics, laws, schools, medical practices, cleaning my house, paying my bills.  To caring about all of it, I became educated in areas I never expected.  I hear from all my new mommy and daddy friends that it is the same for everybody.  The world, and your experience in it changes to become meaningful and important in a new and profound way.  A baby changes everything.

The beauty of birth lies in the birth of a family.  A child makes a man and woman become a family.  Your friends and family become a network of love, laughs, and advice.  A baby is a wellspring of love, the universe expands to infinite proportions.  Now, when I meet new babies, I see the people they will become, and I see the love and endurance of their parents.  I am now the baby holding, baby loving woman I never knew I could  be. There is beauty in that depth, and that is why birth, to me is beautiful.  Both the physical birth, for all it’s power and timeless endurance, and the spiritual birth of becoming something more than yourself.  A child is an extension of your flesh, heart, and mind.

Special thanks to the babies, moms, and dads who have shared their birth experiences with me.  Special thanks to the midwives, Dr’s, doulas, and nurses who make the experience safe, loving, and amazing for all the moms and dads out there.  Much love to all who choose to embark on the journey, and to those who choose to participate less directly.

Having a child is not for everybody, but it takes a village to raise a child, and if you are reading this, you are a part of that village.