Maternity photography is a fairly new phenomenon that has gained in popularity only in the last 20 years. For centuries before that, pregnancy was mostly hidden and only when baby was born were the camera’s brought out. I can remember as a child seeing countless photos of my mother and myself as a baby – her arms wrapped around me, one of us both passed out from exhaustion in her bed, one of use swinging in the family hammock. My grandmother had a shelf dedicated to a newborn portrait for each of her grandchildren – but no photos anywhere of who grew those grand babies. There were no records of the bodies and people who nourished and made space for a new life to come into the world. It was all about babies.
The first kinds of maternity portraits were done in the early 16th century but weren’t common as it showed women as sexually active (which in those times was a bit of a problematic subject). Visual artists started portraying pregnancy more and more during the 20th century as they explored the female form in more ways.
Of course, art and photography are connected and this lead to Annie Leibowitz photographing Demi Moore’s pregnancy for the (what is now iconic) August 1991 Vanity Fair cover. Demi was barely covered and very pregnant – something that hadn’t really been seen with pregnant women before. Some were so shocked by it that they refused to stock the magazine for sale (clutch my pearls!).
From here, maternity photography took on a new life as people started to celebrate pregnancy bodies. No longer hidden behind baggy clothes, pregnancy could be embraced and shown off.
Demi Moore may have broken the maternity shackles so to say, but she has been joined by some pretty amazing maternity art which has also shifted our cultural perception of pregnancy and opened it up to more acceptance.
Who could forget Beyonce’s iconic maternity portraits by Awol Erizku of her second twin pregnancy? Draped in organza and surrounded by florals – she broke instagram making it the most liked image a that time with an amazing 8 million liked in 24 hours.
Katy Perry celebrated her pregnancy with her Never Worn White music video dedicated to her daughter Daisy Dove.
Rhianna broke all fashion expectations and bared her pregnant belly for every public appearance after her announcement, paving the way for a new wave of bare bellied fashion. She also accompanied her pregnancy journey with another iconic Annie Leibovitz spread in Vogue mixing maternity and high fashion with several setups featuring her rounded belly.
From these women, we can gain inspiration not only in art and photography, but with confidence and being proud of how amazing the pregnant body is. Your amazing, strong, pregnant body isn’t something to hide away – you’re growing life! You should shout it from the rooftops and remember this time with beautiful, fine art portraits.
It’s obvious that maternity photography is here to stay. As long as people still continue to make babies, maternity art will be there.
We’ve come into a cultural shift where women are now taking control of their bodies more than ever and allowing themselves to take up more space. Pregnancy is no longer being seen as an ailment or a handicap – it’s a natural, beautiful progression of life.
Maternity photography will continue to evolve and grow and more and more expecting mothers will invest in celebrating themselves and their changing bodies.
When you get married, you hire a wedding photographer to capture the day. For a lot of people, these are the only professional photographs they’ll have of themselves. But life evolves, changes, and moves and it also deserves to be documented and celebrated. Pregnancy is an iconic event that for most only happens a couple of times – why not celebrate yourself and how amazing your body is? Get pampered with professional hair and makeup, put on some glamorous gowns and honour your beautiful pregnant body with your very own maternity photography session.