Samantha Knoop, the mind behind Park Avenue Photography, knows how it feels to be a new mother. With three children of her own, the photographer has put in her time in birthing wards. And though each moment almost certainly stands as a joyful experience for her personally, she couldn't help but feel that the hospital itself was missing something—specifically, appropriate and timely art. Knoop says of her photography, which is primarily pictures of newborns and their interactions with their parents, “If, after having my babies, there had been pictures like this in the hallways and in the rooms—I just think it makes it really special. I have three children myself, so I can relate to moms and newborn babies and what's going on—being really sympathetic while photographing; being relaxed and having a lot of patience,” says Knoop. “That's where my photography started.”

Knoop, who has made her artistic career photographing babies, pregnancies, and parents, has recently started a new branch of Park Avenue Photography specifically for the use of her images in healthcare facilities. “Park Avenue Art is an extension of my photography studio, Park Avenue Photography,” she says. “It's been developing in the last year. I've always photographed babies, pregnancy, children, and families, and now I've started providing it to healthcare facilities. Now I'm just in those specific areas, birthing wards, birthing inns, OB/GYN offices, and pediatrician offices.”

She notes the calming characteristics of her photos, as well as the ability for new mothers to relate to them as the main reasons for her success. More importantly, though, she knows that birthing wards and OB/GYN offices are unlike any other healthcare setting, and, because of that, require specialized artwork. Rather than the soothing images of nature in many hospitals or the vibrant colors adorning the walls of children's wards, it's the image of babies and families that truly belong in these settings.

“In my area, it's different from the fine art, nature photographs within the hospitals, which are beautiful and perfect for those areas,” says Knoop. “The area that I provide for is totally different from any other area in the hospital. It's a place where life is being celebrated. It's perfect to see these wriggly, wrinkly newborns on the wall, and moms and dads adoring and loving them. You just had a baby and just gone through this in your room. That's what you want to see.

“The children's ward has a totally different purpose. The artwork for children there is used to enlighten them and brighten it up. A birthing ward is just an area on its own, which I think is really neat.”

As can be expected, photographing babies is no easy task. Without being able to give specific commands, much of Knoop's work thrives on spontaneity and the natural reactions of the babies and their families, which she posits, isn't such a bad thing. “A crying baby doesn't bother me where it might bother someone else. The best shots come unplanned—seeing what the baby does and the parents in response,” she says. “They're little babies. They've just been thrown into the world and trying to acclimate themselves that way. Then they're brought into a photography studio. Any image of a precious baby—that's the thing, they're just so precious—any image is just wonderful. They can be more difficult than not.”

But Knoop points to her experience as a mother—as well as her time spent as a kindergarten teacher—as reasons for her success. “[Being a mother] does [help] because I know what's going on, as opposed to being someone who hasn't had any interaction with children or doesn't have any children,” she says. “I know what's happening with the baby, the mom, and the dad. I've been there. Most of these families are young families. They look to me for advice sometimes. Knowing what's going on, having the patience, not worrying, and just being really relaxed helps. People feel that too. It makes them more relaxed.”

Ultimately, Knoop sees her brand of hospital art flourishing in the future. As she notes the specificity of the areas in which her photography appears and the growing desire of new mothers to have this kind of imagery in the birthing wards, Knoop expects many others to follow in her path. “It's a new genre of art in healthcare that I think will be greatly received. It's different than what's going on now,” she says. “The birthing ward has to be treated differently than the rest of the hospital. There are different needs for that area.” HD

Park Avenue Photography

For more information, visit http://www.parkavenueart.com or call 253.380.8932.

Healthcare Design 2009 February;9(2):52-53