We were lucky to catch up with Martha Lerner recently and have shared our conversation below.
Martha, looking forward to hearing all of your stories today. Let’s kick things off with your mission – what is it and what’s the story behind why it’s your mission?
I strongly believe photography is a form of therapy, or rather a healing tool. So I began my professional photography career making pictures of mothers at their births, since I was already a seasoned birthworker (Doula) at that time.
I feel strongly that peace begins at birth, and all births CAN be empowering. But when we are in labor, we lose track of time, of this earthly plane, of everything, so photography allows us to view the experience from a 3rd person perspective, and allows us to see how strong and brave we are. It also allows us to view our experience and help us process, if the birth went differently than we imagined it would (and it so often does!).
I believe as we continue along our journeys as mothers we go through so many different evolutions of ourselves, both in our bodies and our souls. I love to document all these different “seasons” and show mothers the beauty of their truth at the moment. We aren’t always able to be so supportive of ourselves when we are in the “thick” of a difficult phase….but sometimes allowing an artist to make art with it allows us to view it from a different perspective, and allows us to not only give ourselves grace, but truly start to love ourselves (no matter what state we are in) again.
Martha, love having you share your insights with us. Before we ask you more questions, maybe you can take a moment to introduce yourself to our readers who might have missed our earlier conversations?
Growing up, I always had a camera in my hand. I probably have owned at least 30 at this point! I got into professional photography through birthwork. I became a certified Doula in 2015 when I left my career as a public school teacher. I then went on to also become a certified Midwife’s Assistant for Birth Center and home births. Once I got VERY comfortable in the birth space, I brought photography into the picture.
What sets me apart is I am truly a BIRTHWORKER, who is also a professional photographer. I can wear both hats at a birth comfortably, leaning more into one than the other when needed. And I think it’s SUPER important that if you are going to document a Birth, you be well seasoned in birth and in pregnancy in general. Most “regular” photographers aren’t prepared for what supporting a birthing person entails….from being “on call” 24/7 and all the sacrifices that entails, to dealing with constantly changing lighting, small cramped spaces, things moving and changing VERY QUICKLY. Knowing how to communicate effectively with a birthing person leading up to the birth, as well as communicating with the birth team/hospital staff also is something that takes time and practice. I am as comfortable documenting and supporting someone at home as I am in the OR of a major hospital because I have attended over 200 births now, and I mean ALL KINDS OF BIRTHS!
My heart and soul go into EVERY SINGLE BIRTH, and I care deeply for all my clients, treating them all as if they were family. Which is why I have to limit the amount of birth clients I take on so I can support them fully!
I love that birth forms this bond for me and my clients, then I subsequently get to watch them grow, and document other seasons of their lives….from breastfeeding/bottlefeeding, to toddlerhood, to rediscovering how they are as individuals down the road. I see the beauty in all of it, and am able to reflect it back….and make beautiful, heirloom quality artwork to keep for years and years to come.
I am very proud and blessed to share that I have been awarded over a dozen International Awards for my work in the fields of Birth, Postpartum, Family, and Breastfeeding, and am always experimenting with new things and pushing myself as an artist. The education will never end for me!
Any stories or insights that might help us understand how you’ve built such a strong reputation?
I think reaching out and learning everything I could from the seasoned birthworkers out there when I first started helped me build my reputation in the birth community. I always approached EVERYONE I met as if they were a teacher. I never brought my ego with me anywhere I went, and I bought countless coffee drinks to anyone willing to talk to me!
I also always strive to have the utmost integrity in my actions and words. That is always most important for me! That this isn’t about me and what I want really, it’s about the best thing for my clients, what will make them most comfortable and happy about their whole experience.
How did you build your audience on social media?
I built my audience on social media by sharing my expertise surrounding birth and it’s best practices. I learned a lot from my own experience giving birth, and what not to do. I learned more as I became a seasoned Birth Worker, so I wanted to share my knowledge with those going through it on social media in hopes that they would have a positive birth experience the first time around. Social media actually led me to becoming a Best Selling Author for a collaborative project where I wrote the opening chapter on a book about VBAC’S….and where I also provided much of the artwork!
My advice and strategy for social media is ALWAYS BE YOUR AUTHENTIC SELF, because that is how you will find the right clients FOR YOU. Not every client is your ideal client, and that’s more than okay! Be yourself, show what resonates with YOU, and the right people will connect with you. And post consistent, quality content of course!
- Website: www.zenmamalove.com
- Instagram: @zenmamalove
- Facebook: @zenmamalove
- Twitter: @zenmamalove
- Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCPeR2MMjMgfWrRfEGhQFb1w
- Yelp: @zenmamalove
All images taken by me, Martha Lerner/zenmamalove