There are lots of things we take for granted in our lives. While we can be grateful for the roof over our head and the food in our bellies, most of the luxury of our day-to-day can go unrecognized—even something as simple as taking a photo. San Franciscan photographer Keri Vaca, owner of Small Miracles Photography, is working together with Homeless Prenatal Program, a not-for-profit that works with low income expectant mothers, to take maternity pictures for homeless pregnant women. Helping over 4,000 families annually, the Homeless Prenatal Program aims to assist pregnant women who are homeless or have problems with substance abuse or who are victims of domestic violence.
The photo project's goal is to reveal the beauty in pregnancy, and give women who might otherwise feel marginalized the opportunity to feel special and to embrace that beauty. The only prerequisite for one of these free portraits is for pregnant women to regularly attend the Homeless Prenatal Program's prenatal classes, for which expectant moms are rewarded with 5-6 free photo prints, the best one chosen and framed by Vaca.
I spoke to Keri Vaca about the project, and she told me she became involved because her daughter was classmates with another child whose mother worked for the Homeless Prenatal Program.
"I introduced myself and told her I was a maternity photographer and wanted to know more about Homeless Prenatal Program. She explained what they did and I asked if I could come photograph the moms to be. She said yes. I have gone once a month for the past 7.5 years. I take photos of the moms the month before they are due. They are part of a prenatal class that meets weekly. I want to reward them for making the effort to learn and go to the classes. I bring clothes for them to wear if they want...I bag them up with tissue, so it looks pretty. Like a present. I want the whole experience to feel special from start to finish."
"There is something that happens when the women come into the space where I shoot and see all of the cute maternity clothes I bring. That alone can bring a smile to their face. Then they put on the clothes and get in front of the camera. I try to joke with them and make them smile. I will show them their photo in the back of the camera and I love seeing their face light up. I see their confidence grow. I hope the photos help them feel strong and beautiful. Ready to keep fighting to change their lives and break the cycle of poverty."
"There are just so many awesome moms I meet. Some make me laugh as we share stories about life, kids, men. Some make me cry when I see how sad or despondent they feel. I have so many emotions while there. Recently I had a mom who was deaf. I had never worked with a deaf woman before, but figured I could do it. She was incredible. Her family never learned to sign and raised her as if she was hearing. She was able to communicate very easily with me. She told me how her partner had walked out on her when she was 8 months pregnant. She was in college and she said how she knew it was going to be hard but she was going to continue in school. She was sad that he left her but she was strong and going to be the best mom she could. I was so inspired by her positive attitude. "
Images: Courtesy of Jose Vergelin; Keri Vaca (6)