We had the good fortune of connecting with Chelsea von Kaenel and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Chelsea, can you talk to us a bit about the social impact of your business?
I believe documenting families, especially new parents in the postpartum phase of life, is so important because honest photos help people see themselves in ways they normally wouldn’t. It’s not often that we have images that reflect our real, unposed, unscripted lives back to us. And the postpartum period is HARD! It’s hard for parents to see themselves doing the hard work, when they’re in it. The photos I create help show parents that yes, it’s hard. But they’re doing it! And the photos are the proof. Photos of honest family life are also a really wonderful way for people to process their stories, especially photos of a time in their lives that is particularly challenging, or special, or both, like the postpartum period. Holding space for people to be themselves and feel their feelings, while documenting their lives is something I’m passionate about, and I know it’s deeply impactful to the families I photograph. Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
As a family and postpartum photographer, I feel like the honesty of my photos, and capturing the “mundane” in a beautiful way is what sets me apart from other photographers. What makes me the most excited about my work is getting to witness parents, especially mothers, sink into parenthood. In the beginning there’s this uncertainty, and slowly a comfort and confidence emerges. It feels like such a privilege to document that. I trained as a birth doula in 2017, and though I loved (and still love) birth, it just wasn’t the right work for me. I wanted to be creative. So I started doing family photography which I will always be passionate about. But I felt this call back to birth work, or rather, postpartum work. The postpartum period is incredibly underrepresented, and yet so powerful and beautiful. I started a project called The Postpartum Project, which is a longterm photo project that revolves around postpartum mothers and their journey through the first 12 weeks. And so began my love for postpartum photography. It’s not always easy though. Many new families don’t know what to expect of postpartum, and it’s often seen as something gross, or boring, or not “pretty enough” to be photographed. It can be challenging to encourage folks to want photos of that time, but whenever families see their photos, they’re always in awe of how beautiful these mundane moments can be. I want the world to know that postpartum photojournalism is necessary. Not just for the photos, but for the process of having another person witness you go through postpartum. Just being seen and heard in the postpartum period can be so nourishing. And I help people feel seen by holding space for them, and creating photos of their experience. Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
If a friend was visiting town, I would take them down to Olde Town Arvada. It’s close to home for me, but it also is home to some of my favorite restaurants, coffee shops, shopping, and of course our favorite public library! For breakfast, Breadwinners is always a favorite! For dinner, Smokin’ Fins for sushi, Homegrown Tap & Dough for pizza and beer, and The School House for comfort food and amazing whisky! We could finish with coffee and pastries at La Dolce Vita. Olde Town Arvada has it all. Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
I want to shoutout the birth community in Denver, and I don’t know if there’s just one person. There are so many people that have inspired me and pushed me in this work. Miranda Sherman from Mindful Miranda Lu, Jessyca Wyant from Colorado Dream Company, Inc, Laura Gallardo of Queen City BirthWork, Sydney Leach of Soulful Summit Doula, Taylor Gossett from Intuitive Heart Birth, Danielle from Lantana Collective, Lindsey Eden from Lindsey Eden Photography, and Monet Nicole Moutrie from Monet Nicole Birth Stories have all inspired me so much. Some of them I know personally, some of them I only know online, but each of them have inspired me and pushed me to be a creative force for good in the family and postpartum photography world.