As we explore stories from the pandemic our first feature is the outstandingly powerful work of Mexico based photographer Camila Vázquez Mellado, documenting the birth of a her nephew during the Covid-19 outbreak.
In the city of Queretaro, Mexico doctors and nurses rally together treating and caring for this who have been infected with Covid-19, with over 114,000 confirmed cases and over 13,500 confirmed deaths, like the much of the world Mexico has been plunged into lockdowns, struggles, and devastation. On the 12 May 2020, Camila Vázquez Mellado a 26 year old professional photographer and videographer born and currently based in Mexico documented a rare and beautiful moment amongst the chaos, the birth of a baby born during the pandemic through.
The baby; named Bruni is the nephew of Camila, the first baby in her family by the oldest brother and his girlfriend. When asked to photograph the C-Section, a special moment for the family and historical event of a baby born during a global pandemic, Camila accepted without a second thought. Over the next few weeks we will be looking at some of the best work that has been submitted to our archive documenting the pandemic, and looking at some of the most powerful stories that have arisen in recent months. We spoke with Camila Vázquez Mellado about her outstanding and beautiful images that are filled with narrative.
JT: Firstly, could you tell us a little about yourself?
CV: My name is Camila Vázquez Mellado, I’m 26 years old. I’m a professional photographer and videographer born and currently based in Mexico. With a background in documentary photography as well as experience in commercial photography (product, fashion, food, architecture, interior design, portraits, and travel photography).
After almost 8 years of working and evolving as a photographer, I have learned that images can transcend language, cultural, and ideological barriers. This, by bringing people more connected and aware of different perspectives in this beautiful yet complex world.
Many times I feel this curiosity for understanding. I believe everything is connected to some extent. And we all share a connection with this planet and everyone-everything that lives in it.
This is why as a photographer, I’m driven by developing projects related to culture, natural conservation, and sustainability. With the basis of discovering, documenting, and understanding the relationship between nature and humans.
I also love to discover remarkable stories in which I can be able to document people and share these stories to the world. I believe photographs may not be capable of doing the moral work for us, but they can trigger the process of social consciousness. Therefore, my goal is to be able to bring value to society and to a specific audience through the power of images and storytelling.
JW: Photographing an event like this in a normal situation is both beautiful and powerful but given the pandemic how did this make you feel, what was on your mind?
CV: Photographing an event like this was a “mixed-feelings” experience. It wasn’t the first time I photographed a live surgery as my father is a surgeon and he has asked me to photograph his surgeries a few times in the past. But it was the first time I both witnessed and photographed the birth of a human being through Caesarean (or C-section) delivery.
Birth is something I have always felt “scared” of seeing. As a woman, I tend to empathise with the pain it involves in any delivery. But it was a fear I wanted to overcome. As well as to be able to see a different perspective from giving birth, rather than the ideas of mothers-to-be screaming, the blood, the tears and every emotion we see in the media when a woman is giving birth.
From this experience, I was able to see the joy, the hope, the love, the dedication of medical professionals, as well as the technology that has made a delivery such as this one, possible and safe.
Regarding the fact that it happened to be a birth during a Pandemic, I felt scared and uneasy to enter a hospital’s operating room. But I made sure I took all the persuasions possible. Wearing a mask, disinfecting my gear, maintaining a safe distance between medical staff, and so on. So to me it was an experience I was willing to take part into because somehow I saw the value of photographing an event like this one in the times we are currently living.
JW: What does this series of images mean to you?
CV: To me, the event of a baby being born during a pandemic, was something I felt this need to document through photography. I believe that photography and storytelling have the power to transcend barriers. It helps us share unique perspectives of this world, different ways of living, which in turn helps us connect as human beings through empathy, respect and attention. More so, I learned from my mentor Ricardo Azarcoya (a documentary photographer) that “the best stories you can photograph are the ones that you know the most, the ones that you have a kind of access that no one else has. And there you can find the relevance of photographing them, of sharing those unique stories to the world”.
Therefore, I think this series of images may reflect this “closeness” to the subjects because they are in fact, close to me. The baby’s father is my oldest brother. One of the doctors that participated in the delivery was my father. And my sister-in-law was eager of me to photograph her delivery because she is a photographer as well. She both wanted me to document the event, to take the first photographs of her baby and because she knew it was something I would love to do.
These series also have a personal emotional value because this newborn baby (named Bruno), is the first baby in my family. So this day was the day my brother became a father, my father became a grandfather, and I became an aunt.
So it was a very happy day, despite the fear of the current crisis. It was a day that gave us hope for life, gave us a reason to believe in a better future to come.
JW: There are so many powerful images here, and this series acts as a stark contrast to everything else that we are seeing across the world right now, are there any images that really stand out to you, and could you tell me a little, or explain your thoughts and emotions regarding these images?
CV: I would say that the images that really stand out to me, that really provoked strong emotions in me are the ones when Bruno (the baby) was brought out of the womb and into this world. The shock from seeing him grow through my sister-in-law’s 9 month pregnancy, to seeing him right there in front of me, alive, giving his first breaths and screams as he spread his arms and legs, was incredible to me. I couldn’t help to cry from tremendous joy, to feel relief that he was strong and healthy and that everyone was ok.
I wanted to capture the professionalism of the medical staff, and all the care behind an event like this one. I wanted to capture the nervousness, the anticipation, the love and excitement of my brother and my sister-in-law for having their first baby. And furthermore, I wanted to capture the strength of human life though this newborn baby; Bruno.
See more of Camila’s work Here.