Today we’d like to introduce you to Sherida Hammond.
Sherida, we appreciate you taking the time to share your story with us today. Where does your story begin?
Well, I wasn’t your ordinary teenage. While most were interested in fashion, hair, and attending parties and teen clubs, I was engulfed in the arts and all things female reproduction. As far as photography goes, I enjoyed all different genres growing up, but the one I was most fixated on was candid photography. I can remember purchasing disposable cameras and carrying them on outings with friends and family. I really liked taking pictures of them naturally engaging with one another or in an activity and not looking directly at me or my camera. I would capture the most authentic expressions of the people I cared about; no forced smiles or unnaturally stiff posing, which was just how I wanted to remember them in those moments. It wasn’t until well into my twenties that I received my first hand-me-down, 2-megapixel Vivitar digital camera from my big sister. Even with a “real” camera, I still didn’t take myself as seriously as those around me. I knew I had an “eye” for photography, but confidence was something I seriously lacked. This led to me focusing on other areas in my life, like motherhood and building a career in healthcare.
After the birth of my third baby in 2016, I was forced to decide my future once again. I contemplated whether to continue my pursuit of becoming a labor and delivery nurse or force myself into the box of a portrait photographer, which I knew wasn’t my jam. It wasn’t until I stumbled upon birth photography that I felt like the sky had literally cracked open. I was like, “I need to learn all I can about this genre that could potentially be a profession for me.” I took classes, upgraded my photography gear, and got to know my camera settings in and out. After I photographed my first birth in 2017, I was hooked! While getting another birth under my belt took a while, I never stopped pursuing. Today, I’m an award-winner and have had my images published in print and on the web with the most-trusted pregnancy and parenting brand, What To Expect. Quite honestly, it still amazes me that my affinity and interest toward pregnancy, labor, and birth, which once obsessed my 15-year-old mind, and my passion for photography, have led me here.
I feel extremely blessed.
Can you talk to us about the challenges and lessons you’ve learned along the way? Would you say it’s been easy or smooth in retrospect?
The journey is never smooth. There were many days I cried, questioning if I was a good enough photographer or if I had the support necessary to maintain the demands of this career. In the beginning, I think my biggest challenge, next to finding clients that would hire me, was navigating on-call life for weeks at a time. Waiting for “the call,” possibly missing birthdays and holidays, can make your anxiety go through the roof. While we know that this is part of the job, it took about 3 years for me to finally mellow out a bit during the on-call period.
Truthfully, the only barriers I had to breakthrough were the ones in my mind. Once I honed in on that, I became more productive and focused, and began educating myself in the areas where I was weak. I knew I had found my niche in birth photography; it was only a matter of time before I would attract those I’m meant to serve and see the full manifestation of my calling.
Appreciate you sharing that. What else should we know about what you do?
I specialize in birth photography and videography, while dabbling a bit in newborn photography, as well. I’ve been serving families throughout the DMV, Delaware, Pennsylvania, and surrounding areas, in homes, hospitals, and birth centers, since 2017. In 2020, I dove head-first into learning the art of filmmaking. This has been an incredible asset, as almost all of my clients are interested in having a keepsake of their birth in motion. Aiming to increase my knowledge and reputation as a professional, I became a Certified Professional Birth Photographer through Birthbound in early 2021 (shout-out to Leilani Rogers and her team!). I feel this achievement helps demonstrate a level of accountability, commitment, and trust I deem necessary when working with my beloved clients and the providers caring for them.
Over time, I’ve observed that many birthing families desire to have a birth team that represents who they are and what they believe in. I’m encountering more families that are either intentionally seeking out a black birth photographer or visit my website or social media page and find it a bonus that I am one. Either way, there is a tremendous lack of black birth photographers, not only around the DMV and Northeastern region, but also within this genre. At the time of this interview, I’m currently the leading (and possibly the only) certified professional black birth photographer in the DC, Maryland, and Virginia areas. My two daughters, nieces, and other black and brown persons, should have the luxury of seeing someone that looks like them either giving birth or artistically representing those that do.
One of the strengths I’m proud of is the progression of my skills over the years. Switching from photography to video mode has become like second nature, as well as my stealthy ability to move about the birth space discreetly. It takes a lot of skill to both photograph AND film a single birth while fighting against light and maintaining steadiness while filming handheld. When someone views one of my birth films, one of the questions I get asked is whether I have another camera set up somewhere in the room because of the many angles I can capture in a single scene. Not at all! You can thank my quick ninja moves for that, lol!
What sets me apart from others? Have you seen any of my birth films? They’re next level! Period!
Is there a quality that you most attribute to your success?
With the pandemic hitting us from out of nowhere, many creatives had to do what we do best, get creative and pivot with the times. For me, this meant going from in-person meetings to now offering virtual consultations, which is something I’ve unexpectedly grown to enjoy doing. It still provides a level of connectedness that many of my clients desire when hiring a photographer for such an intimate occasion as giving birth. It allows them to see my face because with Covid lingering around, I’ll likely be masked up at their birth. In addition to that, they’re getting their questions answered directly. Ultimately, I place great importance on superior customer service. I mean, I go all out for my clients! Through my time or the quality of the products I offer, I want my people to feel that their investment is well worth it, a thousand times over.
- Website: https://www.joliadorephotography.com/
- Instagram: instagram.com/joli_adore_photography
- Other: https://vimeo.com/joliadorefilms
Joli Adore® Photography, LLC