Passionate about capturing the human experience, this Melbourne birth photographer shares her story.
When I was really young I loved to put on performances for the family and in particular my rendition of Kylie Minogues ‘Lucky’ I think I went through all the typical phases. Marine Biologist, first female Astronaut to walk on Mars, chef, dentist.
At 14.9months, I dutifully got a job at the local swimming pool writing certificates and handing out lollipops to the kids who had passed their level. Even then I remember being concerned about my employability. I felt huge pressure to pick the ‘right’ subjects in school in order to be successful (whatever I thought that meant).
I followed the path of safety and got myself a ‘steady’ government job. I think there was a part of me that always knew I was chasing the wrong version of success but I also didn’t have the tools at the time to start recognising what a new version of success might look like. I was deeply unhappy but I didn’t know it until I started going to therapy, when it became abundantly clear; I was disconnected from my body and emotions.
Recognising I wanted a change and then allowing the space to find what that could look like was all part of the transition, from a 9-5 job to running my own creative business. My employer had a program where you could take 12months off (unpaid) and they would hold the job for you.
So I took a sabbatical! I went to so many creative classes; screen printing and ceramics and photography. I loved photographing buildings but I guess once I’d mastered how to use my camera on a still object I was ready for the next challenge.
Eventually I realised photography and specifically birth photography was where I wanted to be.
I love photographing families, creative small business’ and most of all birth largely because it’s ever changing. People are all so unique and yet we also have these universal qualities. I love being able to hold a photo as a mirror and say... “look..see what I see”. I think as women we are so cultured to notice the flaws, to wish things were different. For me photography is a medium with which I can start to dismantle this.
After my sabbatical I went back to work. After a couple of months I was asked to apply for a new role, a promotion of sorts and something I would be good at and probably enjoy. It was in that moment that I realised if I took this job then nothing would change and as Anais Nin so eloquently put it 'And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.' For me it wasn’t a transition so much as a realisation that if I didn’t take the risk now then I was never going to.
The kind of business owner I want to be is based on the kind of human I want to be. Kind. Present. An advocate for women.
I spend a lot of time thinking about legacy. About the ripple effect of this work and how it will impact generations to come. Having a camera and a platform to share my perspective is an enormous privilege. The fact that these women invite me into this incredibly intimate and sacred moment of their lives is something I never want to take for granted.
I don’t have words to articulate how incredible it feels to be invited in by these women and families to document their birth story.
Liane Bourke Photography - Portfolio
My ultimate goal is to influence birth culture. I want to humanise birth. I think the Hollywood version of birth has a lot to answer for; so it feels like both an immense privilege and weight. What I chose to include in the frame, the parts of the story that I focus on. That’s what someone sees and for so many women their only experience of birth was when they were in labour so being able to share my perspective feels really important. The nature of birth photography means I’m ‘on call’ for many weeks at a time.
Strangely enough, it really suits me. It helps me to be very structured and organised with the things that I can control (editing, blogging etc) Being on call pressures me to take heightened care of myself. Get enough rest, eat nourishing food, meditation - the usual albeit slightly boring things. I’m careful not to take on too many overlapping clients so that I can rest easy knowing that I won’t be running from one birth to the next in a frenetic state. I guess more than anything it’s a focus on making sure my energy is the most calming it can be for the moment I step into your birth space.
Rituals are an important pillar in the way I run my business. Thinking about how we can infuse a simple daily practice with intention is transformative. Some that come to mind include:
Grinding my coffee beans in the morning and drinking it from my favourite mug.
Morning pages (I break the rules and use 750words.com)
I guess another thing that I love so much is being able to plan my schedule around my cycle. There is lots of downtime and journaling in the days prior and during my period. I then plan photoshoots and social activities when I have more energy. This has been a game-changer for me. Just tuning into the rhythms instead of always go-go-go to the point of exhaustion.
“I think success is a practice, sort of like love or happiness.”
— Debbie Millman
To me success is living my values, being present, remaining open. Sometimes success feels like a cuddle on the couch with Professor (my french bulldog) or a glass of wine with my hubby.
Success is when I get to watch as a phone call is made letting your older two children know their baby sister has arrived. Success is when a client tells me she found her photos healing after a difficult birth. Success is an international Skype call after a birth to let your mum know you had a baby boy. Success to me is the integration of all the facets of life.
In the Company of Women by Grace Bonney.
The Crossroads of Should and Must by Ella Luna (Ella Luna’s book)
Fiona Barrows: There are other ways
Kristen Kalp: Thats what she said
Jessica Murnane: One Part Plant