Thanks to the very pregnant Mariah Carey, the paparazzi and tabloid "bump-watch" machine is in overdrive. But Carey recently beat photographers at their own game by Tweeting a pic of her bare belly lovingly hand-painted with a butterfly motif. That Carey snapped it herself - but is she ever really far from an assistant? - was the most surprising aspect of the exercise, as pregnancy photos are nothing new.
Since the infamous 1991 Vanity Fair cover depicting actress Demi Moore nude and with child, documenting pregnancy and baby-dom has become almost de rigueur. Despite the uproar that Moore's photo created 20 years ago, we've become comfortable with the naked female form swollen to capacity. Pregnancy photos now seem almost quaint in comparison to the snapshots of home births revealed by acquaintances in my Facebook feed.
And now the latest trend - breastfeeding portraits - promises to test our comfort levels again.
When Ottawa-based photographer Sara McConnell gathered a group of moms over the winter to document images of them breastfeeding their babies, the portraits got picked up by parenting bloggers and went viral. "I think I had 4,000 hits on one day," McConnell says. Having just started her full-time photography practice a couple of months before, "family photography" proved to be a boon, says McConnell, who can hardly keep up with requests. She now offers breastfeeding photography packages starting at $125 for a 45-minute session that includes 10 high-res images and 10 low-res images for the moms who choose to post them online.
Offering professional nursing photos helped McConnell build her fledgling business, but it also drew McConnell into the fray over breastfeeding in public. "I didn't intend it to be related to advocacy," McConnell says. "That was never my intent. It's about giving people memories."
Quietfish.com parenting blogger Andrea Tomkins, also of Ottawa, applauds the changing attitudes that are bolstering this breastfeeding photography trend, dismissing criticism that it's just another extravagance linked to the current-day consumerism involved in bringing up baby.
"If [parents]have the money and it's really important to them, why not? It's not like they're buying stuff that's going to end up in a landfill," Tomkins says.
When she was weaning her youngest child a decade ago, she asked her husband to take a photo of her nursing her child for the last time. "I wanted one photo to remember [it]" Tomkins says. "Her eyes are closed; it's such a restful and beautiful moment."
"It's a very quiet and serene experience," McConnell concurs. "That's why I do this. I want people to have memories of their families and children and, if people ask me to keep doing it, I will."