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Capturing the very first hello

Two photographer friends see the beauty in every birth

We like to document the “firsts” in our lives. When friends and professional photographers River Bennett and Bel Pangburn shared with each other how much they enjoyed photographing a baby being delivered, they knew they had to develop the idea.

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“We thought this could be such a gift for people,” explains River, who went on to co-found The First Hello Project in 2015 with Bel.

“We understand the weight and honour of being invited into that space.” – Bel Pangburn

Taking care to establish relationship with the expectant parents they will be capturing in labour, The First Hello Project’s services were readily taken up.

“The images are what sold it,” Bel simply describes. “Momentum has picked up through the years … and the power of social media and sharing images [meant] it caught on quite quickly.”

How quickly it caught on surprised River and Bel but the Hillsong members always wanted to forge more than a “cute” Instagram account.

“We understand the weight and honour of being invited into that [birthing] space,” says Bel, before River adds: “Our goal is to always find the beauty, because birth isn’t beautiful, in a lot of ways.”

These friends approach business with their Christianity engaged. They pray “a lot” and hope all they do displays whose they are. “We love creating because we are in contact with our Creator,” says River.

“Everything we produce, there will always be a sense of servanthood and obedience.” This extends to supporting a maternity ward in northern Uganda, via Love Mercy Foundation, as well as expanding First Hello to also taking shots of kids growing up.

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