Interview with Maternity, Birth and Newborn Photographer, and Māmā of Three, Catherine Smith

Photographer Catherine Smith

Meet the wahine behind our beautiful Hey Pēpi, edition two cover photo.

Can you introduce yourself?

My name is Catherine, although I usually just go by Cat, and I’m a photographer in Hamilton. My husband, Keanan, and I have three children, our son, Quaid (3), our eldest daughter, Manawanui (1), and our new baby girl, Aumārire who we just welcomed in December.

 

Tell us about your background and your journey to becoming a photographer.

Thank you! I guess you could say that I’ve always been quite creative. Growing up, anything to do with art came to me very naturally so I always enjoyed and thrived in art-related classes, easily getting top marks while seriously struggling and having to repeat years in my English and maths subjects. Adulthood saw me do nothing with this strength of mine, however… as I worked in retail and as a personal trainer up until I had my son in 2018. While I loved the connections and relationships I was able to make in those roles, I just knew something was missing and couldn’t help but wonder what I could achieve if I actually tried to do something that nurtured my creative side. So while on maternity leave, I borrowed a camera from a family member and basically haven’t put a camera down since!

Seriously though, I just went onto YouTube, learnt how to use the camera in manual mode, learnt about lenses, composition, and then every single weekend I would be out photographing anyone who would let me. Literally any family event, I would offer to photograph it. I just took any and every opportunity available and slowly but surely, I just kept getting better and better and began to get bookings. I was doing this as a bit of a side hustle for a while and when my daughter was born in 2020 I officially left my role at the gym I was still working at and went full time as a photographer once my maternity leave was up. It’s taken a lot of late nights and sacrifices to get here now, but honestly, it’s still mind-blowing to me that I get to do something I love so much as an actual job! I just feel so incredibly lucky.

 

Your photo is the beautiful image on our cover! What is the story behind the photo? 

This image documents my final fourth trimester experience. It’s me, holding my beautiful newborn baby, Aumārire who I birthed the day before. My body is soft, I have new stretch marks from this pregnancy, and I’m wearing some hospital undies my midwife gave me with a nice big pad for my postpartum bleeding. It’s incredibly special as it’s the last time I’ll get to experience this journey; my husband and I won’t be having any more children.

Catherine Smith
Do you have a beautiful pregnancy photo that encapsulates ‘Becoming a Māmā’? We’re looking for a new cover image for our next edition of Hey Māmā. Submit your photo/s here.
Can you describe your photography style?

Empowering, timeless and emotive.

 

You specialise in photographing maternity, births, newborns and families. What draws you to these subjects for your work?

When I first picked up the camera I gave everything a go, but it quickly became evident that my heart was drawn to documenting motherhood and birth. I’d say this is definitely because I’d just gone through this experience myself. I could just connect and relate so much to the mothers I was documenting.

Birth is just so raw and powerful. And you really can’t capture anything as precious as new life being brought into this world. It’s such an honour and privilege to document new life and will always hold a special place in my heart. Unfortunately, I will be stepping away from births for a year or so while my youngest is still breastfeeding. I’m really looking forward to getting back into things later this year though as I hope to focus more on documenting more intimate motherhood sessions. As mothers, we do so much of the unseen work daily, but we’re often not seen in the pictures. We pick ourselves apart and fail to see ourselves the way our children see us and I want to change that. So here’s to 2022 😍

 

As a photographer, how do you hold space for māmā and pēpi during these most sacred times of birth and the fourth trimester? What sort of presence do you offer your clients?

I’m very honest and open about my own struggles in my motherhood journey so I’m naturally very empathetic and understanding of others. It’s hard to speak on behalf of my clients, but I’d say that they feel this genuinely when they work with me.

How do you balance being a māmā and growing your business?

Ha ha, not very well!

Let’s be honest. The juggle is REAL. I’m always up late at night working, never getting anywhere near enough sleep, and still struggle to keep on top of all the things that go on behind the scenes of running a business. 

In saying that though, I have done some re-evaluating because this isn’t healthy. There will always be some juggling to do as a māmā, but I believe we truly do need to stop glorifying the grind and learn to value ourselves in business more. With this, I’ve seen a big increase in my pricing over the last year and I’ve set clearer boundaries around the amount of work I will take on. This has been hard for so many reasons… I honestly would just photograph all day, every day – for free if I could! I honestly just love it so much! But having children forces you to assess how you’re spending your time and in this season, while my children are still so young and need more of me and my time, I’ve come to realise I just need to be comfortable with slow business growth and learning to slow down a bit. Learning is the keyword there.

 

How has being a māmā shaped your passion for photography?

Being a māmā myself, I know first-hand how quickly this season can escape us. This time we have with our children is so valuable, important, and worth documenting. And as mothers, we’re just as worthy of being in the photos, to be remembered in this time too – no matter how we may be feeling – because it will very quickly become a faded memory.

Follow Catherine’s work on Instagram @catherinesmithphotography.
To book or make an enquiry with her, visit catherinesmithphotography.com.

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