(NEW YORK) — It was about five years ago when Dallas-Fort Worth photographer Elaine Baca photographed her first birth. Until then, she had been primarily working weddings.
“I realized that my best images all along had been the ones that told a deeper story,” Baca told ABC News’ Good Morning America. “From that point on I changed paths and began doing documentary photography, exclusively focusing on families through birth and ‘Day in the Life’ sessions.”
Her work took on even more meaning as of late when she began photographing alongside midwives Teree Fruga and Kennasha Jones of My Sister’s Keeper Birth and Midwifery as they worked.
“They informed me about the huge difference in birth outcomes for black women along with the fact that at the time they were the only two black midwives in our area to hold their specific license,” Baca said.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the risk of pregnancy-related deaths for black women is 3 to 4 times higher than those of white women.
“It’s important for people to see and understand that black women and babies who are dying in childbirth are not just statistics put out by the CDC,” Baca told GMA. “They are real families with real lives who are being changed forever. If we don’t make big changes and hold people and our health system accountable, the disparities in birth outcomes for black women and their babies will only continue to grow.”
Aside from the shocking disparity in birth outcomes for black women, Baca said it’s important for black women to see birth stories of “people who look like them.”
“Few birth stories depict black families,” she said. When Fruga and Jones brought so many of these issues to her attention, “I knew immediately that I wanted to use my background in storytelling to photograph the work they were doing and help bring awareness to this growing issue.”
The photos of Jones and Fruga’s work have been shared almost 50,000 times since Baca posted them to Facebook.
“The photos and message shine a light on an issue that people either had no idea about or they knew and were excited to see people joining the fight,” said Baca of why she thinks the photos are being shared so widely.
With the growing awareness, the photographer said she’s received many requests from people who want to support the midwives.
“We need more black birth workers,” she told GMA. “[People] can help by financially supporting organizations who are making a difference: My Sister’s Keeper Birth and Midwifery, 4Kira4Moms, or individuals who are interested in obtaining a license as a doula or midwife. Then continue the work by speaking out about this growing issue and advocating for families.”
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