The miracle of birth has been recorded in all its raw glory in a series of breathtakingly intimate images from around the world.
The stunning gallery showcases the winners of this year’s inaugural Birth Photographer International Image Competition.
Included among the winning entries was a glimpse of one mother burning through her umbilical cord using a candle in a practice that has been around for hundreds of years, which is believed to protect against infection.
The contest was founded by award-winning photographer Lacey Barratt as a way to further legitimise the stunning and intricate art of birth photography.
The 33-year-old from Melbourne, Australia, has been a passionate birth photographer for 10 years and was one of fourteen experienced judges to pick the winners of the competition.
First place was awarded to Renate Van Lith, from Amsterdam, Netherlands, second place was presented to Jenna Nord from Montana, USA, and third place was granted to Diane Hinek, from California, USA.
But with 216 entries snapped by birth photographers from around the world – including Brazil, Portugal, France, Germany, Australia and New Zealand – Lacey felt it was important to showcase the top images of the competition.
The stunning gallery showcases the winners of this year’s inaugural Birth Photographer International Image Competition. Pictured: Diana Hinek’s 3rd place entry, taken in the USA, gives a glimpse of one man tenderly comforting his partner as they sit submerged in their bathtub ahead of a home water birth
First place was awarded to Renate Van Lith, from Amsterdam, Netherlands, who submitted this image of a newborn baby being held up by a nurse
Gabby Del Pio’s entry showed one man delicately fanning his partner as she laid on her side and cradled her bump as the couple prepared for their new arrival
Bianca Macauley, from Australia, submitted this heart-warming photograph of a new father tenderly clutching his crying newborn baby to his chest
Mother-of-five Lacey said: ‘It was important to host a competition because there are so many other incredible competitions in the world, but they are not specific to birth photographers.
‘So we often get lumped in with documentary, photojournalism, and wedding documentary categories.
‘Judging and comparing a birth image with a wedding photo are just two completely different ends of the spectrum.
‘So to have a panel of judges trained specifically in birth photography was paramount to the legitimacy of such a prestigious award.
‘I personally love how birth heals a bad birth and prolongs the joy of a good birth.
‘Our work is so paramount to birthing people, because it allows them to take charge of their emotional autonomy even though our physical autonomy may have been taken from us.
‘When we view our images, we get to choose how we feel about them. And that is powerful in itself.’
While this was the first year of the prestigious competition, Lacey added she was excited to keep it going for years to come.
She said: ‘We are looking for images that exceed the standard of what would be given to a birth client.
‘The images we are looking for exceed visual communication, are above the standard of storytelling that we would expect any professional to deliver.
‘The energy surrounding the competition was so electric. I was honoured to host such an incredible event that this niche so desperately desired.’
To see all the winning photographs, go to http://www.competitions.birthphotographer.com.au/award-galleries
Payton Reper’s entry, taken in the USA, caught the miracle of birth in all its raw glory as one nurse helped delivery a baby during a home birth
The emotion of childbirth was clear to see in Rianna Cross’ competition entry, taken in Australia, as one family embraced following the birth of the new arrival
Renate Van Lith, who was crowned the winner, also submitted this stunning black-and-white photograph taken as a bird’s eye view as one expectant mother prepared for her baby’s arrival in the Netherlands
There were 216 entries snapped by birth photographers from around the world including this image by Hannah Paulsen in Australia capturing the first seconds of new life in all their raw glory
Cait Sumner, from the USA, captured the moment a new mother burnt through her umbilical cord using a candle in a practice that has been around for 100s of years to protect against infection and bleeding after birth
Lisa Phillips, a photographer from the USA, caught the agony of childbirth as one mother was helped through her home water birth
Netherlands photographer Renate Van Lith also submitted this black-and-white entry as new parents gazed affectionately at each other following the birth of their new arrival
Second place was presented to Jenna Nord from Montana, USA, for this intimate image as one woman gave birth in her bedroom during a home birth
This touching image, also captured by Renate Van Lith, showed one woman’s son comforting her as she sat in the birthing pool and cradled her newborn
Sarah Lentz, from Australia, caught this black-and-white image showing the moment one family took to their phones to update others on the birth of their newborn
Hayden Trace, from the USA, caught the moment one woman gave birth to twins in a breathtakingly intimate snapshot
The contest was founded by award-winning photographer Lacey Barratt as a way to further legitimise the stunning and intricate art of birth photography with this image by Charlene Foerster, from the USA, capturing the struggles of labour
Amber May, from Australia, caught the very first seconds of new life as one mother clutched her newborn as she sat in a birthing pool
Karissa Gray, from the USA, caught the tender moment one mother cradled her newborn baby and gazed at her partner following the agony of childbirth