Stunning photos of black women raise awareness about disparity in birth outcomes

The photographer spend two years taking photos of black women giving birth.

February 24, 2020, 4:06 AM

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 "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 Tereé Fruga and Kennasha Jones of My Sister's Keeper Birth and Midwifery as they worked.

My Sister's Keeper, Fruga told "GMA," "was born out of our desire as African American women and mothers to see the racial disparity in birth outcomes among African American women and their babies change."

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."

For Fruga and Jones, "representation is everything."

"In a country where the experiential effects systemic racism are still very much alive, it is vitally important that the voices of black people are allowed to narrate black history," Fruga said. "You rarely hear stories of our triumphs and moments of success. However, there is something so powerful about the moment you see yourself represented in spaces where you were never invited to succeed or even worse, quite the opposite."

The photos of Jones and Fruga's work have been shared almost 50,000 times since Baca posted them to Facebook earlier this month.

Baca thinks the photos are being shared so widely because, "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."

"These stories aren't just for today; they are for generations to come," Fruga told "GMA."

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."