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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 theTucson, Arizona area. I just turned 30 in February. Grew up in Eastern North Carolina. I’ve beenmarried 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!
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 abackwhen 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 wastaking a year or so ago. Fox was really sick and Thomas had spent most of the morning in the showerwith him trying to keep him cool and letting all the vomit and whatnot wash off of them both as itcame. 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!
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 insome 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’ve 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.
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 aMarine 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.
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 favourite. She is such a fantastic friend and photographer… I’d love to see her take on my family.
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.
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 labouring 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 childbirth. 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!
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 Canon35L] 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!
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.
10. If you could give one piece of advise to both new and seasoned photographer what would it be and why?I am a slowpoke. 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.
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.
NOVEMBER 25, 2012
Sara Garcia Photo Art
I shot this session about a week ago with this beautiful family on a gorgeous evening. Stephanie (pretty mama) told me she had a vision for her session. She wanted a barn and warm summer light incorporated into the shoot. We found the perfect location to fit her vision and she styled her family perfectly. All the girls wore their favorite boots and dad wore his favorite shirt. The BEST part of this session was the natural connection and love that this family shared. You can’t fake real emotion! I adored these two little girls as we sang their favorite song, “Old Macdonald” the entire time