This Image of a Human Placenta Looks Like the Tree of Life

All images by Sarah Boccolucci. Used with permission.

There’s an image on the LooksLikeFilm Facebook group that has been creating quite a bit of interest. The photo is by photographer Sarah Bocculucci–she’s a birth photographer,  has been studying photography since high school, and became really interested in it once her career as a professional dancer came to an end due to injuries. “I love all types of photography and have recently taken film photography up again- talk about humbling,” Sarah states.

For Sarah, becoming a mother was the most important and most transformative day of her life. “It may be hard for some people to understand why someone would want pictures during a time that is very vulnerable, often messy, and extremely intimate, but as a mother of four I totally understand the importance,” says Sarah. “The photos may not be ones you pull out when company comes over but they tell the story of a life. Birth isn’t a subject everyone is comfortable talking about but ask a 90 year old woman in a nursing home her birth stories and she can tell you them.”

Phoblographer: How have you been able to balance both a work and personal life doing this and basically having to be on call at times?

Sarah: Being on call is tough!! You basically are glued to your phone, take your camera everywhere, drive places separately in case you have to leave, have a back-up plan for your back-up plan and a bunch of childcare options. The childcare part is the hardest because I am asking people to watch my young kids, but I can’t give them a date, time, or how long I will be. It is a tough sell. For this season in my life I only take one client a month. Once my kids are older I will take more clients, but this is what works for me and my family right now.

Phoblographer: So talk to us about the placenta photo, what made you want to shoot it?

Sarah: Most of the births I have attended the parents are asked if they would like to see their placenta. When parents say yes, it is held up in a bowl full of blood and they are shown where the baby lived, which side was attached to the mom and which side the baby felt. I always feel like this doesn’t really show them how beautiful the placenta can be, both abstract and organic. When parents have me encapsulate the placenta for them I always wash the blood away and take a photo so they can really see it. They are really an incredible organ, and each one is unique.

Phoblographer: Talk to us about your creative vision making this image, you made it look a lot like a tree of life.

Sarah: Before taking the photo I washed the placenta with water and was careful not to take too much of the blood out of it, so the vessels would be noticeable. I wish I could say that a lot of thought was put into the positioning or intention but honestly, there wasn’t. I made sure blood wasn’t surrounding it and then moved it near some lovely window light. I liked how round this one was and I pulled the umbilical cord down and they just naturally end up looking like trees.

Chris Gampat

Chris Gampat is the Editor in Chief, Founder, and Publisher of the Phoblographer. He also likes pizza.