Photos from world trip capture the soul of mothering
MELISSA Jean is the sort of woman who would buy a camera lens over a pair of shoes any day of the week.
Her passion to capture the miracle of life has seen her traipse across the globe to photograph women and their children.
She has travelled from Thailand to Cambodia, from Mexico and Tanzania - and everywhere in between.
But the Sunshine Coast photographer said getting to know the people in her own home town was the most exciting part of her job.
"Being a mother may not have the financial reward, but I believe it's one of the hardest and most important jobs that exist," Melissa said.
"My aim is to recognise and celebrate these inspirational women every day."
On a recent trip to Africa, Melissa was given the opportunity to capture the lives of women in rural communities.
The Maroochydore woman said the dangerously primitive birthing conditions women endure in Third World countries would be a shock to most people, but the women's resilience and triumph over adversity was an inspiration.
"Most African women in rural areas don't have electricity, running water, doors or windows and many sleep on woven mats, rather than beds - but regardless of this, their babies were content," the 33-year-old said.
"What they do have is a natural instinct to always wear their babies and breastfeed.
"It is living proof that when it comes down to it, all the modern day luxuries and technology can't buy you a happy baby, but wearing and feeding your child religiously are the key elements to surviving those early years.
"The difference is extreme and I take my hat off to anyone who dedicates their career to improving birth conditions for African women. The clinic I visited was teaching mothers how to not pass on HIV to their babies through and after birth.
"Sunshine Coast mothers are extremely lucky to not have such high health risks and to have the choice of how and where they birth."
Melissa said being part of "such intimate moments" continued to affect and influence her and she was grateful for the life lessons.
"Someone once said to me that I should keep my personal Facebook account separate to my photography page," Melissa said.
"This was never going to work for me as my clients become my friends.
"They are more than welcome to see as much of my life as I see of theirs and it's so wonderful to watch them grow over the years.
"It also acts as a constant reminder of how quickly the years are slipping by."
To ensure the quality of her work remains original and she can give each client her undivided attention, Melissa only works nine months a year. The months that she is not working, she is not in Australia.
"When you put your heart and soul into every job, it can be quite emotionally exhausting, so the months off are necessary for the longevity of my career," she said.
"Most of my personal travel I only record memories with an iPhone.
"My hand and neck really appreciate that camera-free time; I saw eight countries in 2014 alone."