Ilsa Wynne-Hoelscher Kidd is an award-winning photographer who captures motherhood, pregnancy, and birth in all its beauty and vulnerability. A mother herself, she is able to build connection and compassion with her subjects, resulting in tender and honest portrayals of the most personal scenes. We caught up with the Melbourne photographer to find out more about her work.
How did you first get into photography?
My father was a photographer and from a young age I went along with him on his shoots. I loved the process of seeing him work from concept to creation and enjoyed the energy of the collaborative environment between the photographer and the subject (and the team when applicable). I was fascinated by the dark room processes and inspired by his work that hung around our home.
Your motherhood portraits are so beautiful. Can you tell us a bit about your interest in this particular subject?
Thank you! I’m a mother of two and since becoming a mum I have felt the pull to explore this new chapter in my life through documenting the felt experience, bonds, and hardships of true love. I have always loved the candid captures of my mother and us as children shot by my father. There was something so nostalgic and romantic about those photos, like the best of life, even if challenging and messy. There was such beauty within it all. The love I have for my children is a feeling like no other, strong and ever-growing. I wanted to capture that for my children, and to offer that to other mothers and families who wanted a real look on their life together, but in a beautiful, raw, art-inspired style.
Has the way you approach photography changed since becoming a mother yourself?
I think I look at the world differently now, so that undeniably shifts your view of others and of the human experience, and therefore your art—especially as a photographer where the subject is captured through your eye and the way you see them and the world. I’ve become more passionate about letting things be, finding the beauty in the real and imperfect. I’ve become all about the intimacy of life, the shared experience of souls connecting, of stories combining, of unique views and complexities.
What do you love so much about working with and capturing mothers?
I find great joy in being able to translate simple moments into an artful timestamp for people. Photography is important to us; as a species we like to look back on our life, our memories, and to live on through these photographs. I try to capture my subjects with honesty and intimacy. If they are willing to gift me a view into some of their vulnerability and deep truth, it’s a glorious and humbling experience. My clients always feel such happiness and pride when they receive their photographs, so that makes this kind of work very rewarding for me.
Can you tell us about a few of your favourite motherhood portraits you’ve shot and why they are so impactful for you?
All the people I am lucky enough to work with and photograph are important for various reasons. Capturing them often requires a fast-tracked building of rapport to allow them to feel safe and comfortable in front of my lens. In this time, as we shoot, we talk about all matters of life, their experience, and lots of fun tidbits too. It’s quite a beautiful line of work, to meet such open and fascinating people and then to document them in a way that is truthful and beautiful.
You also document childbirth and women in labour. It must feel pretty incredible to be invited into the fold in such a significant point of one’s life.
It’s extremely sacred and very special. Such an epic arrival each time, I get goosebumps and tears and all the oxytocin. I adore that each mother and baby’s journey is different from all others, keeping each story very personal and unique. It’s quite a ride, and you never know when or where it will begin or end, just that you’ll be starting with two people and ending with three in front of the camera. I can’t think of a greater moment in life than birth. It’s the beginning of it all, very metaphoric and life-affirming, and also a little bittersweet in its tale of life’s cyclical nature.
How you would describe your photography style in four words?
Nostalgic, moody, intimate cinéma vérité.