Maggie Shannon is a photographer specializing in portrait and documentary work. Hailing from Martha's Vineyard, she received her MFA from the School of Visual Arts and is now based in Los Angeles, California with her husband and cat, Lester. Maggie aims to tell stories of smaller communities and social rituals, with the goal of lifting edge voices and building a more inclusive world. Her approach is reflexive and anchored by honesty, empathy, and endless curiosity.
Maggie was selected as a 2018 PDN emerging photographer and has been recognized as part of Magnum's 30 under 30. She is a member of Women Photograph and her work has appeared in American Photography 35 and 36. Her first book, Swamp Yankee, told the story of New England shark fishing. She otherwise spends her time camping, baking pies, and trying her hand at growing veggies. Maggie loves a good Seinfeld reference and encourages you to use one in email correspondence.
Extreme Pain, but Also Extreme Joy
After Los Angeles went into lockdown in early March, I began following four midwives as they navigated the new world brought on by the Covid-19 pandemic, exploring what it means to bear life in a time of sorrow and grief. The midwives’ phones rang endlessly with calls from terrified women hoping to deliver within the safety of their homes. With hospitals flooded with sick patients and many banning partners in the delivery room, the thought of laboring mask-free and in a familiar setting seemed preferable.
The midwives’ practices shifted to protect their patients, themselves, and their own families. Chemin Perez moved her birth clinic in Arcadia, CA into tents set up in the parking lot, reserving the interior space for laboring mothers. As one of the few midwives in the Los Angeles area that takes MediCal (the California Medical Assistance Program), the move seemed like an obvious choice and allowed her to continue providing care for one of the most vulnerable populations. Many midwives, including Jessica Diggs, switched to telehealth visits, dropping off dopplers on clients’ doorsteps and teaching them how to listen to their baby’s heartbeat over video chat. These shifts in practice were not inspired by fear but rather through resolve to continue their critical work.
I was struck by the courage of every woman I witnessed: the calmness and resolve of the midwives and the power of women in the throes of labor who pushed through all of the agony. I witnessed pain and was unable to do anything but bear witness and document. Midwives provide guidance and guardianship rooted in generations of work, but mothers experience the extremes of birth on their own. As each mother held her new baby to her breast amongst chaos and global suffering, the miracle was extraordinary. At a time marked by separation and loss, these stories of connection and care feel especially healing.
To view more of Maggie Shannon’s work please visit their website.