Having an eye on a very special moment
They say if you love what you do, you will never work a day in your life. Judging from the look on Regina Hahn-Siy’s face as she talks about her work, here is a woman who has been blessed with the opportunity to do exactly what she loves.
Rej, as her family and friends fondly call her, is the beautiful face and brains behind My Story Photography. I’ve known Rej since our elementary days in Poveda. Everywhere she went, Rej always stood out, not just because of her height and beauty but, more important, because of her kind nature and sense of humor.
We lost touch for a few years after graduation, until I saw her name in the 2009 Binibining Pilipinas roster of beauties. Everyone was talking about Rej’s entry, though it was not completely a surprise, since her mother, Chiqui Brosas-Hahn, is Binibining Pilipinas Universe 1975 and fourth runner-up in the Ms. Universe that year. History repeated itself as Regina Brosas Hahn was crowned Binibining Pilipinas second runner-up.
A year later, in 2010, we all cheered once again, but this time, it was as she walked down the aisle to say “I do” to her longtime boyfriend. Today, Rej is a happy mother to her adorable year-old daughter and her other baby, My Story Photography, which focuses on birth photography.
Birth photography, as the name implies, is having a professional photographer capture a baby’s entrance into this world. But talking to Rej and hearing her explain it is a different story. More than just photographing a medical procedure, birth photography is about ensuring that this special time in a family’s life will not be forgotten.
Contrary to what some may think, the photographers are not there to take graphic shots, unless requested by the parents. Usually, the photographer focuses more on the emotions and then, of course, the newborn baby.
Look of love
There are countless moments that make up the first chapter in the story of a child’s life, from the look of love and concern on a father’s face, an older sibling meeting the new baby for the first time, grandparents laughing from pure joy or a mother counting her baby’s toes and fingers.
These were the moments that Rej wanted to capture on film when she gave birth to her firstborn last year. “My mom teaches Lamaze, so of course I had to at least try to give birth the natural way. Feeling everything, including the pain, has its good points. You labor, literally labor, to get your baby out. The emotions are very real. It was special, much more than just a medical procedure. It made me think, ‘Wow! This is such an important occasion! Why shouldn’t it be captured?’”
She continues, “Especially when you give birth naturally, you really need the support of your partner.” Given a choice between having her husband and mother take photos of the big day or offer her support, Rej found herself choosing the latter. “I said, stop it, I need you here.”
Even after giving birth, that thought continued to run through Rej’s mind. “Wouldn’t it be so much better if the people you care about were beside you, fully engaged in the birth? And somebody else bothered with the shots and pictures?”
Despite her interest in pursuing birth photography, it still took several months for her to pick up a camera for her first clients. She was still working full-time for a multinational IT company, but after having her daughter, she found herself at a crossroads.
“It was hard for me to resign because I put so much effort into my career. Early in my life, I was engrossed in being financially self-sufficient and experiencing life to the fullest. But now that I am wife and mother, my priorities have changed.” It was the perfect time to let go of her career, and she did so with no regrets.
With the encouragement and support of her husband and family, she then returned to her idea of bringing birth photography to Manila. Her first clients were students of her mother from her Lamaze class, and she offered her services free of charge. The couple happily accepted.
The best part was that their OB gynecologist was the head of the OB Department at the hospital where they planned to give birth and she was open to the idea of having a birth photographer on hand to chronicle the events of the day.
Armed with her formal authorization letter from the doctor, she was ready. What she wasn’t ready for was the labor time, which began at about midnight and lasted well into the afternoon of the next day.
Despite the fact that she was there for about 16 hours, it was love at first click for Rej.
Since then, Rej has had a steady stream of clients, but given the unpredictable nature of due dates (you can never really tell exactly what date the baby will come), she blocks off several days before and after the given due date to be sure that she is available. She also limits her projects to be able to give her full attention to each mom who books her services.
Part of their story
While she hasn’t experienced any emergencies yet, she makes allowances for unexpected events such as a recent premature birth where the babies (triplets!) had to stay in the hospital for a while before being released to their parents. When the babies were finally given the green light to go home, she was back in the hospital with the parents because she felt it was part of their story.
Considering how personal the nature of the job is, Rej takes time to get to know the couple before they give birth. That is why she truly looks forward to “the call”—even if it is at 3 in the morning.
“I just really enjoy it. It’s always such a happy momentous event for any couple. I feel so blessed to have an eye on that special moment, and then of course there is the joy on their faces when they see the baby for the first time,” she explains.
Given the nature of birth photography, it seems that this self-confessed “feely-feely person” is a perfect match for the job. “There is so much power in the images because they are not edited, not posed. That’s why I am so emotionally invested in them and in what’s happening.”
After the shoot, that’s where the work comes in as Rej goes through hundreds of photos, searching for those that tell the story perfectly. Parents get the final say as to which photos go into the photo books she makes for them and, in some cases, photo videos. It’s up to the parents if they want to post these photos or videos online.
Some keep it private for their personal albums, while others share them with friends and family. One couple who chose to upload their baby’s birth story photo video on YouTube just last June 28 has already garnered over 9,000 views, with an overwhelming 96 percent giving it a thumbs-up. With a reception like that, it looks like birth photography is here to stay.
Now, there’s only one problem with all of this, I ask Rej: “Who is going to be YOUR birth photographer when you have your second baby?”
You can contact Regina Hahn-Siy through www.mystoryphotography.com.ph; e-mail email@example.com; tel. 2115007
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