+March 01, 2020
British fine art photographer, Natalie Lennard creates images using a fictional narrative in her award-winning series Birth Undisturbed. Natalie was inspired to begin this series based on her own experience with childbirth. She had all of her children at home. Each experience was positive in that she was undisturbed by outside influences and able to labor and deliver depending on whatever felt right to her in those moments.
Birth Undisturbed is an opposition to the way birth is portrayed in western mainstream movies and television. It shares a message, letting women know that they can have another kind of experience, no matter where they decide to birth their children. The scenes depicted show historical figures such as the Virgin Mary and Queen Elisabeth II as well as fictional women representing different backgrounds and time periods.
I quickly became focused by the idea of creating images for which we lack visuals for, rather than creating a synthetic version of the many real birth images shared on social media in the birth documentary genre.
These images are the first of their kind and have been featured in several conferences in the US and Europe.
Natalie’s work has a distinct style that is evident, especially in this series. Reminiscent of Crewdson’s work, Natalie crafts a cinematic scene. She includes several key details to express the underlying message of the image. The image titled Born of Calamity is a fictional narrative of a real woman known as Calamity Jane. Calamity Jane was a woman of the wild west, an outcast who often dressed in men’s clothing. She was an excellent shot and known for being able to drink as much whiskey as a man. Calamity Jane was tough but was also known for her kindness towards others, especially those in need. Living in a time where disease was rampant, sanitation and clean water was nonexistent, women and babies frequently dying in childbirth, Calamity Jane survived childbirth and so did her children. In the present we now have the understanding that handwashing, basic hygiene and sanitation along with the invention of antibiotics have greatly reduced the deaths of mothers and babies in childbirth. With this scene the viewer is exposed to the idea that allowing childbirth to happen naturally and on its own timeline without interventions is safe for both the mother and baby, and in fact, the medical interventions that are so common for today’s births are causing unnecessary harm.
I believe the timeliness of the series is ever more appropriate in a global maternity and birth crisis where mothers of ‘normal’ birth regularly experience birth trauma; a calling for a rebalance of the power dynamic and honouring of a woman's mammalian instinct for privacy, to be 'undisturbed’ in the act of childbirth.
The still images are accompanied by documentary video that can be viewed on Natalie’s website. Before the creation of Birth Undisturbed Natalie worked as a commercial photographer often creating surreal fashion imagery. Much of this work was inspired by the great masters and incorporates nature and historical elements. Her work has been featured by the BBC, Vogue Italia, El Pais and NY Arts. Natalie was twice named Saatchi Art's One to Watch.