We had the good fortune of connecting with Jamilah Allen and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Jamilah, can you walk us through the thought-process of starting your business?
Oh man — starting my business was a long time in the making. I have always been the person that documents and takes pictures at events and of friends and family. I had plenty of basic digital cameras in my life but I got my first DSLR in 2017. It became an extension of my arm and I wanted to take photos of everything. I offered photos of my friends, taught myself to edit, took a photography class. I was hooked. But starting a business just didn’t seem like a doable thing. When I had my daughter at the end of 2018, I had this really incredible birth doula. Her support and all of the things that I learned about birth and labor during that time really had be interested in becoming a doula myself. I did all the research and the planning but I wanted to bond and spend time with my daughter first. I told myself 2020 was my doula year. Then Covid happened. Later that year, I got pregnant with my son. I continued to push doula work onto the back burner. In December of 2021 I got a new lens for Christmas and I knew that I wanted to start taking more photos again. I started my business at the beginning of this year and hit the ground running.
A few months into photographing family and couples – which I love, don’t get me wrong – I had the realization that I could combine my love and desire to work with birthing families with my photography. I took in any and all education that I possibly could about being a birth photographer and took on my first birth client in April of 2022.
Experiencing that first birth, being welcomed into someone’s birth space for the first time, witnessing a baby being born that wasn’t my own… it was so incredibly beautiful. I knew that I was exactly where I wanted to be.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
I think that what sets me apart from others is that I am exactly what you see. My socials, my website, the emails I send to potential clients, etc. all portray me. (Excessive exclamation points and all!) Birthing spaces are incredibly sacred and special places. I honestly believe that not everyone should be allowed into a birth space. I portray exactly who I am so that my future clients can see and trust in me for their birth experience. I take a connection-centered approach to my work. I’m not the photographer you book, only chat with for that one moment, and then awkwardly see the one time and never speak to after your photos are delivered.
I definitely don’t think it’s been all easy to get where I am. But then again, I don’t think it’s ever going to all be easy no matter how long I’ve been in business. However, challenges are just that. They push us to work harder and come out stronger in the end. They aren’t full-on roadblocks that we can’t ever drive around. I still face challenges in this space but each new challenge is just another future accomplishment.
I think the number one thing that I want people to know about my journey and my brand is that I’m not the one creating your story. You are. I’m just the one putting it together for you to see. I love authentic, pure, incredible, breathtaking moments.. and no moment is too mundane. I take my role in my clients’ lives incredibly seriously. Especially in their birth spaces. (I also cry a little at every birth.)
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
Ooh this is fun! First and foremost, a coffee and bookstore date is a must. North Park would be our first stop for Verbatim Books and Meet Cute Romance Bookstore. Communal Coffee, Dark Horse Coffee Roasters, and Subterranean Coffee are three of my all-time favorite coffee spots over there too. Lunch would be at Encontro. And honestly, just the aesthetic in North Park is *chef’s kiss.*
Another day would be spent in Downtown La Mesa walking through different shops – another coffee stop at Public House and I could spend a pretty decent chunk of time inside Re-Animated Records.
We’d absolutely need a day for Liberty Station (lobster rolls in the Public Market! yum!) and Seaport Village (Ben & Jerry’s!)
I’d probably convince them to let me have a photo session with them in the Gaslamp because it’s one of my faaaaavorite places to shoot.
And finally, maybe a concert if anyone good is in town or a play at OB Playhouse is a MUST. Live entertainment is my absolute favorite.
I think that checks all my San Diego boxes!
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I’d love to dedicate my shoutout to Caitlin Johnson. She is my best friend and a birth doula here in San Diego. Literally from the moment that I mentioned making photography a real thing in my life she has been one of my number one supporters. Every single photo of mine she is hyping me up like crazy. When I talked about wanting to do birth photography, she was my first lifeline into the birth world. My first client was also her birth client. She doesn’t hesitate to share my work and supports me every step of the way. Working in the birth world can be really hard with long and unpredictable hours and experiences and having a friend that also works in that space is so crucial. She is truly my go-to and I cannot thank her enough for her love and support as a friend in my life and colleague in birth spaces. She’s truly a badass (can I say badass here?)
All birth photos by Jamilah Allen Creative Headshot credit to Jessi J Parkinson Photography