Behind the scenes of Läsnä - Presence
Updated: Sep 19, 2019
Interview of Eeva Anundi, photoreporter
Eeva, you’ve created a photo-reportage following doulas and families in their birth journey. This project is now exhibited in Sanomatalo gallery in Helsinki.
How was this project born?
When I was expecting my first born, I thought I would never have a doula. I didn't want any "stranger" to be there when I had such an intimate experience.
But then, I read about the benefits. Having a doula diminishes the risks of a Caesarean or the need to use a suction cup. I also read that women giving birth with a doula often rate their experience more positively than the ones without a doula.
So I had to try it out. I could not explain myself not to have a doula anymore. It was a bit demanding to meet the doula, but in the end it was such a beautiful experience! After the birth, I felt that we all participated in giving birth! So, when I got pregnant again, I asked for the same doula in very early stage. This doula was Veera Gindonis, one of the first doulas in Finland.
A year after the birth of my second born, I got the idea about documenting doula work through my camera. I contacted Veera and she got interested in joining the project of writing a book with me. I attended her doula basic course to learn more about doula work.
The impact of new born families' wellbeing on the whole society is tremendous. The society is based on entities, families. The mothers' wellbeing is the foundation of the happiness of the whole family.
So when is the book going to be published?
The book is on hold now; we have so many happenings in our lives. Nonetheless, the series of pictures has been made and since the beginning Veera has been a rich source of information and a great support.
What are you trying to say through this series? What’s the message you’d like to convey?
My main message is that birth matters! Women matter!
To women, I want to say that we can work for a good birthing experience. We can take responsibility of our own bodies and we are allowed to say out loud, when we are mistreated or when our needs and wishes are neglected during birth.
Capturing birth requires specific skills. What was your approach?
My approach in this project was pretty active. I discussed and interviewed, told my own experiences, to create trust. In the birth, I was silent and peaceful and sometimes I would put my camera off and help out. In some of the births the same patterns would repeat for hours, so I didn't have to photograph the whole time. I would press the acupoints, hold and massage while the doula was sleeping or having a break.
I know some might think this is not an appropriate way of approaching a documentary project, but I felt this was the only right thing to do. I was present.
How did the parents react at first when they are invited to share such an intimate moment of their life? Did you have parents refusing to share their pictures with the audience after reflection?
We made a contract, agreeing about the use of the photos in advance so there was no problem with publishing. About the intimate photos with genitals or breast, we discussed after birth.
I’ve seen the exhibition in Kerava and loved it. It is now in Helsinki. Where next?
I'm open for any suggestion about the next place of the exhibition!
Läsnä - Presence by Eeva Anundi Sanomatalo Gallery, 1st floor
Elielinaukio 2, 00100 Helsinki
The project Läsnä received a grant from JOKES (Journalistisen kulttuurin edistämissäätiö).