I first met Iris at a local café back in Seville, back when a mutual friend was trying to set up a photography exhibition just for women. As someone who mostly did street photography and candid shots back in the day, it never ceased to amaze me that people would welcome a stranger in that most intimate part of their lives, and it amazes me still. Seeing her evolution through these years, I couldn’t help but think of her amazing yet underrated work, and called her for a quick interview.
Once you appear in Vogue, clients think you charge what you deserve to charge, not what you can afford to charge.
The Essential Photography Gear of Iris Muñoz
At the moment, I’m using a Nikon D610 with prime lenses. My favorite one is the 28mm, although I also work with the 35mm and 50mm. In this moment, I’m also becoming used to a medium format, as well as the possibilities that the 20mm lens offer to me. I’m also using a Nikon F2, going back to analog photography, always with prime lenses.
The Phobographer: Please, tell us a bit about yourself.
Iris Muñoz: My name is Iris Muñoz, and I’m a photographer who specializes in finding the spark in maternity photography. I don’t make just pregnancy or birth photos anymore; I also try to look around and capture what processes we women go through throughout our lives.
The Phobographer: How did you get into photography?
Iris Muñoz: When I was a kid, my dad used to carry a camera around, and one of the things he left me when he died was that camera.
I thought of it as a link between my dad and me, and I started to snap pictures on film at thirteen years old. Rolls, and rolls, and rolls… you know how addictive photography can be.
I even studied photography later —at the Photography School in Cadiz and Audiovisual Production at CES Madrid—but I didn’t start making photography something of my own until I was a mother. Maternity helped me portray what I really needed to portray in photography. So, I’ve been shooting like this for nine years, give or take, trying to find that sweet spot between social critique and beauty.
The Phobographer: You specialized in natural births when I first heard of you. Do you still do that kind of photography? If you don’t, do you miss it? Why?
Iris Muñoz: I still do birth photography, but let’s be honest: here, in Barcelona, you can’t live off it. It’s not only not as well paid as it should be; it also requires a certain level of commitment other kinds of photography don’t need.
When you’re working on a shoot with kids, for example, you set an hour in your calendar —no longer, because kids are skittish and easily bored— and done. Home deliveries —the kind of births I’m specialized in— are not scheduled, programmed, or controlled in any way, so you have to blot out entire weeks off your calendar and remain active and on watch, ready to your gear at really short notice and go shoot.
That means you have to say no to other projects and photoshoots, which means money is not coming in. And while I love what I do, I also love putting food on the table.
You can’t ask for more money either because you know that family has already shelled a hefty amount for the double!
The Phobographer: But one could think that the kind of births you attend aren’t exactly working-class births. If they can afford to pay for a home delivery with all it implies, they can certainly afford to pay a photographer what she’s worth! Of course, if you dare to ask for more, they’ll go with someone else.
Iris Muñoz: Yes, it works like that in Spain, at least. I’m aware that birth photography is way more valued in places like the United States, which makes it easier to live off it.
I’d love for birth photography to be more of a thing in Spain and for it to be appreciated the way it should be.
The Phobographer: How does one go from birthday shots to the kind of family life you portray now?
Iris Muñoz: In the end, it all comes down to money. Normal photoshoots are better in a purely financial sense; you don’t need to be on watch, and you don’t need to be permanently available.
I did some research and found my niche; upper-middle-class women who ate ecological food and were alternative. And it worked. These people had money and were looking for the kind of aesthetic and pictures I could deliver.
These pictures I offer usually involve the whole life experience, from births to family life; At the end, I don’t provide a single type of photo shoot, but my personal brand as a photographer.
The Phobographer: You usually work with a family who looks as if they’re used to the camera. How do you get to such a level of intimacy?
Iris Muñoz: They started by being clients, actually. They were one of the first families I met in my neighborhood, and wanted the kind of photography I could deliver. Their kids befriended my kids, and the rest is history.
When I get new clothes I need to take pictures of, I usually resort to people I know. Maybe once I start to get paid more, I’ll resort to professional kid models, but at this moment, I resort to them — that way, I also pay them, which ends up reverting to the neighborhood.
The Phobographer: At this point, they’re almost your family, which brings us to something we wanted to ask you about. They usually appear relaxed even in the most intimate settings, which is really hard to get at when they’re kids.
Iris Muñoz: I agree with you on that. It’s really hard to do. The way I do it —based on years around children, my own or their own or even my partner’s friends, as he’s a kindergarten teacher— is treating them as persons in their own right. I need them to be comfortable and ready to agree with what I ask them. I need them to be happy asserting their boundaries, for good or bad, saying, “I’m tired” or “I don’t wanna.” Once we’re on that level —which takes me around twenty minutes, even with new kids— it’s effortless for me to take pictures of them.
Apart from that, I mentioned earlier that I never do sessions longer than an hour; As I said before, kids are skittish and get bored pretty quickly, so you have to get everything pretty structured and ready, so the photoshoots are exactly as long as they need to be and not one minute longer.
The Phobographer: How did it feel to be starred in Vogue Spain? To see your work in such a prominent magazine?
Iris Muñoz: To start with, I had to approach them myself. The way it works, Vogue Spain offers you the chance to make your own portfolio. You upload your work, and according to their own standards, they accept the pictures or not. Of course, they don’t pay you to be here; You only get paid if the photographs are used in their magazines.
I have to admit that getting published in Vogue Spain was a bit like a piece of candy; once you get past the sugar high, you go on the sugar crash; how is it that I’ve been featured in Vogue, and yet I’m here starving for work?
The Phobographer: You’re right. Once you get published somewhere like that, you should be swamped with offers!
Iris Muñoz: I think that once you appear in Vogue, clients think you charge what you deserve to charge, not what you can afford to charge.
After all, photography as an art is incredibly devalued, with so many people thinking they can take professional pictures just because they bought the last iPhone, without any further training or even practice
The Phobographer: Would you like to share a thought with us?
Iris Muñoz: I still think that the best moments I’ve had as a photographer are when I get to be present at the moment of birth. There’s no birth in which I haven’t been happy, in which I haven’t cried, blown by emotion. You know, when I do family sessions or clothing work, I may end up more or less happy, but natural births? I’ve always been more than happy there.
The Phobographer: As the last question, what would you do if offered the chance to take pictures of a trans man giving birth?
Iris Muñoz: Wow. It would fall short of reality if I said I would love to do that. My head was about to explode the first time I saw pictures of such an event. So many stereotypes are broken down, and so much beauty is happening on all levels. I can’t even imagine my reaction at the moment. A man giving birth like that? I think I’d even do that for free! You know how it is; After all, we aren’t photographers for the money but for the vocation. If it were for the money… I don’t think we would be photographers, would we?
All images by Iris Muñoz. Used with permission. This interview has been translated from the original Spanish. Be sure to visit Iris Muñoz’s website and Instagram to see more. Want to get featured? Click here to see how.