I encountered Diana Henik, birth doula and photographer, on Instagram (@artshapedphotography). I was drawn to her by looking through her feed, her photography is captivating and visceral. I couldn’t tell where her job ended and her life started. I enjoyed her images because they captured the joy of (carrying, creating and giving) life, she uses interesting angles and playful lighting. Her lighting is of interest to me because she doesn’t stick to one end of the spectrum, it’s not overexposed nor is it completely dark and moody. So, I reached out to her for a phone interview and she agreed.
It was a refreshing take on interviews, more informal compared to past interviews where I’m recording and have the questions in front of me. My questions were in mind from a brainstorming session prior, the conversation was easy and flowing and there were plenty of opportunities to satisfy my curiosity. We talked about life as a doula and as a photographer and how the two intersected in her life.
She had long been a creative prior to becoming a doula, starting her career as a digital compositor and having worked at the acclaimed visual effects company Marvel (RIP to a world-changing creative and creator, Stan Lee), and transitioned into working for herself as a photographer after working at home for 3 years after her first child. She began to transition into doula-ship once she took on more opportunities with birth photography after her second child. She was encouraged to educate herself as a doula so that she could be a supportive entity sharing this sacred space where all would be welcoming a new life.
When asked if Marvel or the stylistic choices that comics and their film counterparts (think film noir with deep contrasts in lighting) had a creative influence on her photographic work, her response was:
“being a compositor is a huge creative opportunity, because often times you get to deliver the director’s ideas and you need to come up with a concrete way to translate thoughts into real images. It can also be a curse, because that same creativity needs to function within the rule of visual physics -so to speak. So there is the tendency to nip picking and making sure the shots look clean and fluid. In birth photography, you have to rely on your light skills, time reading and emotions tuning, but it falls into the documentary part of photography, so photoshop often does not make sense. On the other hand compositing skills can be useful for other type of sessions, like maternity, family or newborn, where dads are rigidly nervous and babies are fussy.”
Doulas have an important caretaking role during pregnancy, having the knowledge to guide (new) parents: teaching them techniques for soothing prenatal aches and pains, resolving concerns in a less invasive and approaching prenatal hormonal shifts as a small part of the entire experience. They can be advocates for mothers when they are at their most vulnerable, going through the throes of labor is not easy and there can be things we acquiesce to just to relieve the nuisance (signing papers, agreeing to things we would not have if we were not under duress).
The piece of advice that she would give to pregnant mothers is to be present in the process, to know that the pain is temporary and to be ready for the rewarding journey that is motherhood. Doulas are essentially the fairy godmothers of pregnancy. They approach pregnancy in a holistic way that allows for a gentleness not often seen in the doctor’s office. This perspective on pregnancy as a natural process also allows your soon-to-be-born baby to be connected to their parents and support system in a way that is not often cultivated in the hospital conveyor-belt-you-are-on-my-time-cyborg-doctor’s birth process.
Doulas can, in a sense, liberate you as a mother because they’re giving you the power of knowledge. This power transcends your understanding of your baby to an understanding of yourself and that is powerful when you can communicate to your partner or doctor your feelings and WHY you are choosing to do things a certain way. You shouldn’t have to explain yourself and your birthing plan or process, but if you’re choosing to go to a hospital 9 times out of 10 you will be explaining why YOU DON’T WANT ANY MEDICINE in between contractions. I digress.
We touched on doulas doing volunteer work which was spurred by this article and she was on board with the idea, stating she would volunteer once things settled down in her life. She mentioned that her mentor was actually someone who helped create/support a volunteer network of doulas for low income mothers. I am an advocate of increased access to healthcare and after having my son I will gladly advocate for increased prenatal support. Our children are our futures.
Diana was lovely to talk to and this format was more suitable to our conversation because I did ask a lot of questions on the process to becoming a doula and how does one go about that (which she answered very helpfully), so if you want to know about that portion of the conversation, feel free to ask.
Check Diana out at her Instagram: @artshapedphotography
Or her website.
She is a photographer, doula and mother of 3 based in the Los Angeles area.