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5 Minutes with Victoria Berekmeri

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This week Lei Momi Camera Bags chatted to the Australian Institute of Professional Photography's 2014 Birth Photographer of the Year, Victoria Berekmeri. In addition to running her business, Adelaide Birth Photographer, Victoria offers Australian Birth Photography Workshops and looks after her young son, all while driving social change on the often polarising and controversial subject of birth photography.

Welcome to the blog, Victoria! 

1. Tell us a little about yourself including where you live, where you’ve travelled and how you fell in love with photography:
I live in the western suburbs of Adelaide, South Australia. I was lucky enough to grow up by the beautiful sandy beaches here and my husband and I are blessed to continue living by the coast as we raise our son.

I fell in love with photography as a small child. My Grandfather had a photographic studio and ran classes for 40 years. I loved nothing more than being invited along to “model” for his classes and by the time I was 16 I had saved up enough money to buy my own SLR and attend as a student. During my 20’s photography was one of my many hobbies along with song writing and travelling. I spent a year travelling and working across North America before returning home to buy my first DSLR and continue attending photography classes helping my Grandfather and learning even more about the craft.

After my Grandfather passed away, photography took a back seat until I had my son. As a means to bring my focus away from the Postnatal Depression I was suffering, I started photographing again. As I began refining my skills in photography once more, I wanted to utilise the craft for a personal project that might help me understand more about the birth – birth had been a more eventful and negative experience than I’d expected, which I suspect was a trigger to my PND.

I started calling myself a professional photographer in 2009 as I worked as a portrait photographer in the domestic market. I felt drawn to the idea of birth photography and began researching the ins and outs of undertaking such a task. Needless to say, there wasn’t much information out there! In 2010 I shot my first birth – it was a profoundly pivotal experience for me, both personally and professionally. I took a leap of faith and began offering my services as a specialist birth photographer. The journey it has taken me on has not only been life changing for me, it has had a wonderfully positive outcome for many families, birth workers and society too. It truly has been an honour to share photography and my love for it!

2. Photography is: sharing the gift of emotional connection and an exploration of our existence.

3. Who or what influences your work most? My heart, my instincts, the environment I work in, and the emotional connection I feel with the people and events I’m photographing.

4. Do you have any formal photography training?
I expect my answer should be “no” to this however I do feel that studying photography with my Grandfather over a number of years equipped me with a very thorough knowledge of traditional and professional photography.

5. What kind of camera do you use?  My main body is a Nikon D4, my secondary / backup camera is the Nikon D700, and my other camera is the Fujifilm X-Pro 1, which also has incredible low light capability. I’ve won awards for images taken with all three of these cameras.

6. Lens of choice?  Nikon 24-70mm 2.8 – perfect for tight spaces and catching that most sought after moment of the first breath and cuddle with mum and dad!

7. Which editing software do you use?  The majority of my workflow happens through Lightroom – although I utilise Photo Mechanic for my initial culling and Photoshop for polishing certain key images.

8. Of all the online and print photography resources available, which do you find most valuable?  The one that YOU connect with most! I can honestly say I’ve not undertaken any online training or followed any book. My learning has been through hands-on mentoring, workshops and practice – because I like to ask questions and get real-time interaction.

9. Do you have an all-time favourite photograph?
Yes! Brea’s First Breath. This image has been pivotal in my journey. I entered this image into the SAPPA (South Australian Professional Photography Awards) and the APPA (Australian Professional Photography Awards) last year. The image scored a Gold award and combined with my portfolio of birth photography I was awarded the honourable title of 2013 AIPP Canon Australian Documentary Photographer of the Year. The image was displayed in exhibition with other awarded works from the competition, but it was removed after complaints that it was too graphic for public display. The story went viral on social media and an incredible debate started on the censorship of birth. It was amazing to watch threads of discussions stemming from this one image – thousands and thousands of them, all over the world. There were news articles popping up everywhere as I received late night phone calls from northern hemisphere media requesting interviews. What was most incredible though, was watching the conversations and opinions expressed, passionately for and against this image and birth itself, and then reading the posts from people who’d previously never considered the topic but after reading both sides had made their own mind up – often on the positive side. This was social change in action!

10. If you could photograph any person, thing, place or event in the world, what would it be?
I honestly feel like nothing is greater than capturing the first breath of life. I’m already doing it and I’m so privileged! However, I do sometimes fantasise about one day receiving a call from an overseas celebrity requesting me to capture their child’s birth.

11.What is the one thing you wish you knew when you started taking photographs? Give one piece of advice to aspiring photographers:  Don’t underestimate the power of an image – you can literally change the way people view the world. Your vision is a seed that could grow a forest – so make sure you're planting amazing seeds!

12. What is the most challenging aspect of running a photography business?
The greatest challenge for me and my business has been working in a niche genre which faces social criticism because it is widely misunderstood. The subject of birth photography seems to polarise people and the issue facing my business revolves around the deeper cultural acceptance of birth rather than the photography of this amazing life event. I feel the loss of ceremony surrounding birth needs to be brought back into focus in Western cultures, so I’m keen to see birth photography help this movement. I continue to put considerable effort into shifting cultural awareness surrounding the beauty of birth – to normalise birth and remove the fear culture that is so dominant.

Connect with Victoria:

Website: www.adelaidebirthphotographer.com.au

Blog: www.adelaidebirth.wordpress.com

Facebook: /AdelaideBirthPhotographer

Twitter: @AdelaideBirth

Pinterest: /birthographer


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