• Brittany Oaks

On Birth Photography and Modesty


One of the top concerns I hear about birth documentation (and even breastfeeding photos) revolves around "modesty". I understand the concern, truly I do! However I have a radical notion that I have been wanting to share with you. You may not be ready for it, but here it is:

Wedding photography is 100% more immodest than birth documentation.

WOAH. I know, I know, you're thinking I'm unhinged now, right? But bear with me before you start throwing pieces of wedding cake and tomatoes in my general direction.

First we need to look at the definition of modesty, ok? Generally when we are concerned about this subject we are worrying about what our church friends would think, amirite? For that reason, and since I am a Jesus lover, let's check out what the bible has to say about this "modesty" thing. Rachel Held Evans has some really fantastic and pertinent words in her article Modesty: I Don't Think It Means What You Think It Means:

"In 1 Timothy 2:9-10, the apostle Paul writes “I also want the women to dress modestly, with decency and propriety, adorning themselves not with elaborate hairstyles or gold or pearls or expensive clothes, but with good deeds, appropriate for women who profess to worship God.” ...In fact, nearly all of the Bible’s instructions regarding modest clothing refer not to sexuality, but rather materialism (Isaiah 3:16-23, 1 Timothy 2:9-12, 1 Peter 3:3). Writers in both the Old Testament and New Testament express grave concern when the people of God flaunt their wealth by buying expensive clothes and jewelry while many of their neighbors suffered in poverty..."

Ok so if the biblical definition of modesty has little to do with how much leg or breast we show, but about not flaunting our wealth (HELLO, WEDDING CELEBRATIONS, I'M LOOKING AT YOU), what does that mean for the way we dress - or in the case of breastfeeding or birth, don't dress?

"What is considered modest or appropriate changes depending on culture and context. It also changes from woman to woman, depending on body type, personality, personal convictions and season in life. While we may long for a universal dress code that would make all of this simpler, we aren’t given one. Perhaps this is why Paul encouraged women to “adorn themselves with good deeds,” and why the valorous woman of Proverbs 31 is praised because “she clothes herself in strength and dignity.” At the end of the day, the most important things we project to the world are strength, dignity and good deeds; the sort of things that transcend culture, circumstance, and clothing."

So then, as I was in church this morning during a sermon about Paul, I was pondering these things and it occurred to me that when I am photographing a laboring woman clothed only in her beautiful strength, it could be considered far more "modest" than the most lace and taffeta bedecked bride ever presented to an alter!*

Really, I don't think modesty has much relevance in whether you choose to document your birth or not. Because "whatever modesty means in the New Testament, it doesn't seem to be primarily concerned with how much skin is showing." Instead, it's about being appropriately dressed in a way that doesn't scream materialism. Because our things aren't what we are supposed to be focused on, right? Phillipians 4:8 says, "...whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things." I can't think of anything more true, lovely and pure than the experience of a newborn baby coming into the world. In the images I capture I not only get to "dwell" on these things but record them for that baby's family to be able to look back and dwell on as well.


Of course we could continue the conversation about whether it is "appropriate" to post birth photos publicly and we might do that another day (just know that your documentation can be as private as you choose it to be!) For now I think it is enough to share that I firmly believe it is the farthest thing from immodest to have your labor and birth documented. After all, most women do not book a birth photographer to capture them at their most polished and bedecked. They hire someone to document the beauty in the raw realness of labor and birth. Of support and love. Of their strength and courage. The beginnings (or growth) of a family and miraculous moments of love. Oh the love! I have never been so in love and I adore being able to dwell in that feeling again and again when I reminisce over my own few birth photos.

And on that note, I think I will go hug my sweet babies and reminisce about the day I met them <3

*****(Now, don't get me wrong: I love a good wedding as much as the next gal. I've had two and will finally be a bridesmaid for the first time this year for my little sister and I am TOTALLY PSYCHED! Hi, Hailey! Love you! Also, I have nothing but respect for wedding togs too - it is a high pressure job and they memorialize some beautiful heartfelt moments for fledgling families to dwell on as well.)

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