Interview with Heather Halford Whitten

April 28, 2016
I’m so excited to be sitting down with Heather Halford Whitten. I have admired and adored her work
for so long, and just love everything she posts. If you love raw and the true daily grind of our lives,
then stop what you’re doing and go check out her page. Heather not only photographs her family
beautifully, but takes some of the most real and honest and gorgeous birthing photos I’ve come across.
Please join me in welcoming Heather.
1. Heather, please tell us a little bit about yourself?
Thanks so much for having me, Rebecca! I’m a documentary family and birth photographer in the
Tucson, Arizona area. I just turned 30 in February. Grew up in Eastern North Carolina. I’ve been
married to my high school lover for just over 10 years and I’m a stay at home mom with four kids.usually wrap up the intros there. But, I’m an open book!
Heather_Whitten_03_1000.jpg (1)
2. I’m absolutely in love with the photos you take of yourself with your kids. What do you think draws you to the realness of the shots you take?
Well, I honestly didn’t even think twice about taking them in the beginning. I was always taken aback
when someone would comment about how interesting it was to see a scene I’d taken a picture of. Like,
there is a picture of my husband holding my son in the shower that I took and shared in a class I was
taking a year or so ago. Fox was really sick and Thomas had spent most of the morning in the shower
with him trying to keep him cool and letting all the vomit and whatnot wash off of them both as it
came. It was such beautiful moment that spoke so much to me about the kind of father Thomas is. So,
that’s what I saw and what I wanted to share but everyone in the class was so hung up on the fact that I took and shared an image of my naked husband and son in the shower… it was as if none of them had ever taken their cameras into a bathroom before! I don’t know, I’m rambling. But, basically, I don’t feel like any thing is off limits. If it moves me, I’ll shoot it and share it. This is my life with these
unique and wonderful beings and I’m proud to share it with the world!
 Heather_Whitten_11_1000.jpg
3. I know sometimes when we expose our lives and families it can leave you feeling a bit vulnerable, do you ever experience this, and if so, how do you cope with it?
I’ve always been vocal about the idea of combating shame with vulnerability. I feel like, by putting
things out into the world I am taking control of it. I can share an image of my nude reflection in a
mirror and by doing so I’m saying that I’m ok with myself just as I am. Or, even if I’m struggling in
some way, that I’m ok with the process of it all. And in doing that, I can get ahead of anyone that
would have something negative to say. It works with self image, parenting choices, lifestyle,
relationships… failures or successes… I’m just putting myself out there, as is and asking people to
accept the process.
But, I am dealing with some backlash from that right now. My Instagram account was recently
deactivated with no warning. I share a lot of breastfeeding images of my twins and some naked baby
booties from time-to-time. It’s really hard for me to swallow someone passing such a harsh judgement
on the images that I share and ultimately of the choices I make as a mother and a photographer. It
makes me feel so so out of control and vulnerable up against a faceless mass that I have no confidence
 will ever show up to the conversation with anything constructive or sensible to contribute. It’s
definitely easy to find your corner of the social media world where it’s comfortable and you’re
accepted without question… but, having a wider reach with my work definitely starts to get tricky.
When your art is a very personal subject… and, you go as far as to use it to reach out to others and
encourage them to embrace and bare those sides of their lives as well… it can be shocking to have it
taken in such a drastically twisted way by people that are on the outside of that comfort zone. But, I’m
analyzing my position in the big scheme of things and pushing forward. It’s just a journey to find a
space that you really feel celebrated and accepted and not somewhere that you shrink yourself to play
by the rules.
 Heather_Whitten_08_1000.jpg
4. If you could photograph anything, out of the norm from what you shoot now, what would it be and why?
I think it’s a tie. And, both of these are things that I was drawn to as a child and seemed so impossible
to me back then. But, neither of them feel that way anymore and I look forward to exploring them
when my children are older and I have more time to be creative and adventurous! The first being a
Marine Life photographer… like, under the ocean, scuba diving with the fishes kind of images. And
the second being really creative, environmental portraits of the nude body… like, abstract almost.
 Heather_Whitten_04_1000.jpg
5. If you could have one person photograph your family who would you pick and why?
Oh, man. I always say Tara Whitney because I have just been in love with her as a person for years and
would love to meet her and have my family shot by her. But, Lauren Mitchell is a favorite. She is such
a fantastic friend and photographer… I’d love to see her take on my family.
 Heather_Whitten_01_1000
6. Heather, you and Bonnie Hussey, have recently partnered up on a new project called Project Postpartum. Would you tell us more about it and what your goals are for this project?
We both had plans to take on postpartum projects in the future so we talked through a way to combine
our ideas into one project at the end of last year and have just recently launched it. It’s still in the early
stages but we’re excited! Through documentary and environmental portrait sessions along with
Bonnie’s tireless research and first-hand interviews, we are hoping to continue the conversation about
the variations of what is normal for individual women during their postpartum season.
 Heather_Whitten_05_1000.jpg (1)
7. You mainly photograph birthing shoots, what do you think it is about these shoots that really connect you to them as an artist?
When I was growing up, my dad always encouraged me and my sisters to have our first babies
completely naturally. My mother had done so and he was really moved by the experience and felt it
was something that he didn’t want us to miss out on. On my 10th birthday I got to watch the video that
my grandfather recorded of my mother laboring and my father catching me in his hands as I was born
into a room full of family. I was hooked right then and there. It took Thomas and I almost two years to
get pregnant with our first daughter. And, during that time I learned everything I could about child
birth. When I started focusing on photography after Lily was born and eventually came to embrace the
fact that I just didn’t have any desire to do anything other than document life, just as it was, right in
 front of me, I knew births were going to be that magical sweet spot where I could combine both of my
passions and offer my art up to others. It’s always really excited to get hired by someone to document
the birth of their child because they appreciate my vision!
Heather_Whitten_02_1000.jpg
8. Are there any new techniques or equipment that you’ve been dying to get your hands on or try out?
I am a minimalist, for sure when it comes to gear and processing. I’ve only had one lens [a Canon
35L] for years. But, I’ve been debating getting a 24mm lens for about a year. Thomas dropped my
camera last month and my lens has been in the repair shop ever since so I went ahead and bought a
used 24Lii and have loved it so far. Other than that, probably polaroid film. I have had the worst luck
at buying polaroids. One day, I want to get a nice land camera and really dedicate the time to learning
and using it!Heather_Whitten_10_1000.jpg
9. What do you hope your children take from the photos you take of them as they get older?
Well, I hope that message of “there’s nothing to be ashamed of here” will shine through for them. I
really do strive to raise my children to be proud of themselves. To make smart choices and to not be
afraid of new experiences or different perspectives. So, hopefully they’ll see just how much I loved
being their mother and that I was proud to share our story.
Heather_Whitten_09_1000.jpg
10. If you could give one piece of advise to both new and seasoned photographer what would it be and why?
I am a slow poke. I’ve been learning about photography for nearly 8 years now and I still drag my feet
and feel like I’m “not there yet”. I think these days people rush into the craft without any real idea
why. I mean, money. I guess that’s a HUGE motivator for a lot of people… and I think if that is your
motivator then I don’t really have anything to say on that because those people don’t usually see things
from my perspective and I’m just an annoying bug buzzing in their ears. BUT, if you’re really in this
for the photography of it. The journey of it… I say take your time. You’ve got a whole life to play and
learn and grow. You don’t need to make grand statements right off the bat! It took me until just a year
or two ago to really feel like I had found my voice in the midst of all the images I was making. And
there was an enormous confidence that came with that. I knew I could walk into a birth or a wedding
or a family’s home and walk out with images that spoke to who I was as an artist. And, that is so much
more valuable to me… that discovery of what it is that I want to put out into the world, no matter the
situation… it’s unshakable. It’s all mine.
Heather_Whitten_06_1000.jpg
email: whittenhm@gmail.com | WEBSITE | FACEBOOK | INSTAGRAM
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Rebecca Wang is a documentary and lifestyle photographer that lives on the beautiful central coast of California. She has 2 boys, ages 3 and 7, and an amazing supportive husband whom supports all of her ideas. Rebecca is a military spouse, so traveling and change is very common for their family and she wouldn’t have it any other way. Rebecca is inspired by her daily life and the adventures and traveling her family do. She has had many blog interviews and guest appearances, a spread and cover photo on beyond the wanderlust photography magazine, had an honorable mention and two nominee photos in the child photo competition, and is currently doing her first 365 photo project. She is so happy to be apart of the Light Inspired team, and can’t wait to find, meet, and showcase inspiring artists for you all to meet.

FACEBOOK | WEBSITE

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20 Comments

  • Reply Carolyn Brandt April 29, 2016 at 1:53 pm

    Heather, your work continues to inspire me. Fantastic interview!!

  • Reply Monet April 29, 2016 at 2:12 pm

    Thank you for doing all that you do! Your work is truly inspiring Heather! Keep it up!

  • Reply Kelly April 29, 2016 at 3:32 pm

    This was a wonderful interview….your work is so honest, it’s moving and beautiful. I loved reading about your story and your process!

  • Reply Anna April 29, 2016 at 3:49 pm

    Love Heather’s photos!

  • Reply Anna-Liisa April 29, 2016 at 4:24 pm

    Great interview! Heather, I really love and admire your work.

  • Reply Krystle ricci April 29, 2016 at 7:35 pm

    What beautiful honest work! Loved reading this

  • Reply Antonieta Esis April 29, 2016 at 8:49 pm

    Heather your work is always so honest and inspiring!!! …I LOVE reading this <3

  • Reply Sylvie April 30, 2016 at 9:44 am

    Heather, your work is an inspiration! Keep fighting the good fight!

  • Reply Priscilla April 30, 2016 at 3:41 pm

    I first met Heather when she came over to my house to document my family and my newly postpartum self. I had been following Heather’s work for a while, but meeting her in person just made me fall in love with her. She’s so real and remarkably sweet. When she left our home I found myself missing her. It’s nice to be reminded that we are perfect just as we are. No need to impress anyone. I mean, what’s the point of that anyway? I love her, “here I am. Love me as I am” approach to life and photography.

  • Reply Bobbi April 30, 2016 at 4:20 pm

    Your art is SO moving and beautiful. 💕 It’s ridiculous to me how society has made it completely okay to sexualize women and their breasts, but show a woman breastfeeding (a natural beautiful human experience that is in no way shape or form sexual) and people get all bent out of shape?! Wth? If you have a problem with these type of images, there is a problem with your thinking…not the photos. God made our beautiful perfect bodies and humans are the ones who insist they are shameful.

  • Reply Amanda May 1, 2016 at 5:48 pm

    Gorgeous photos!!!

  • Reply Megan May 2, 2016 at 12:48 pm

    Hey girlfriend! You know I adore your work and your ability to put your life out there in all its raw beauty. You are an inspiration. Happy to stand up with you!

  • Reply Heather Whitten May 2, 2016 at 3:37 pm

    Thank you to Light Inspired and all of the amazing people behind it for having me!! And, thanks to all of you who left such touching comments to be seen here!! It’s wonderful to have so much positivity surrounding my work. Truly, thank you<3

  • Reply Jen Hyde Jockisch May 17, 2016 at 2:26 pm

    I’m so sorry you’ve had to endure such ridiculous controversy. But – silver lining – I and I’m sure thousand of others have been introduced to your work and find it inspiring, raw, open and enchanting.

  • Reply People Keep Reporting This Photo Of A Dad Comforting His Sick Kid In The Shower | arias-tech.com May 17, 2016 at 9:16 pm

    […] week, almost two years after she took it. What prompted her to post it: The photography blog lightinspired used the image on Facebook, and Facebook banned the blog’s page for a few […]

  • Reply People Keep Reporting This Photo Of A Dad Comforting His Sick Kid In The Shower - Hers.today | Different news for different mood May 18, 2016 at 5:20 am

    […] last week, almost two years after she took it. What prompted her to post it: The photography blog lightinspired used the image on Facebook, and Facebook banned the blog’s page for a few days after it was […]

  • Reply People Keep Reporting This Photo Of A Dad Comforting His Sick Kid In The Shower – AllMagNews May 18, 2016 at 5:43 am

    […] last week, almost two years after she took it. What prompted her to post it: The photography blog lightinspired used the image on Facebook, and Facebook banned the blog’s page for a few days after it was […]

  • Reply People Are Reporting This Photo Of A Dad Comforting His Sick Kid In The Shower - Coffee and a Stroller May 18, 2016 at 1:26 pm

    […] last week, almost two years after she took it. What prompted her to post it: The photography blog lightinspired used the image on Facebook, and Facebook banned the blog’s page for a few days after it was […]

  • Reply Jay Faulkner May 20, 2016 at 1:07 pm

    I’m so sorry for all of the crap and bigoted opinions that you and your lovely family have been put through; it is a lovely photo of a wonderful father comforting a sick child – nothing more than that. Keep on taking your beautiful photos! :)

  • Reply April May 21, 2016 at 1:21 am

    I’m new to ur work, and I think your photos are great, but why are your children always naked? Just out of curiosity!

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