The Pregnancy Photographer
I read Linda Aitchison's light hearted article on her horror of pregnancy photography with a sinking heart. Haven't we moved on yet? Yes, Demi Moore shocked the world with her Vanity Fair cover... in 1991. Twenty one years ago.
And blame Demi Moore? Please - shouldn't every feminist in the land be saluting her? Yes, OK I may be biased - I've been married to The Pregnancy Photographer for a very long time, after all. But at its heart, this really isn't about the photography. It's about something far far older - something we should all know, and yet seem to have collectively forgotten.
Last year, in the beating heat of a French summer, I dragged the family to visit Roc Aux Sorciers, a much-longed-for visit to a rock shelter in a cliff high above a river in the Vendee where beautiful prehistoric carvings can be seen. Placing my hands on one of the 'Three Graces', 17,000 year old carvings of female torsos, what did I feel?
A pregnant stomach.
No question, no doubt. The shape of the rounded bump under my hands oh-so-achingly familiar.
Clearly revered and honoured, carved in love and awe by a prehistoric man or woman, on display for the whole community to admire.
Yet in a 'modern' society in which all taboos seem to have been lost, you still see an expression of baffled horror when you mention having a pregnancy portrait, whilst hearing "oooh, you're brave!"
We can't help it, manipulated by societies expectations. Historically, society asked us to stay at home, wear a loose tent, and don't for heaven's sake let's, you know, talk about it in polite society.
Gradually there's been a sea-change, and society has accepted that pregnant women are probably quite normal after all – maternity wear is desirable, pregnant women are continuing to work, and the bump is finally out of the kitchen.
Pregnancy has, in fact, become rather glamorous. And while that has got us out of the house and into some pretty clothes, it hasn't helped so much with our body image. Instead of being hidden, we're now constantly shown images of pregnant film and music stars with their most glamorous of outfits, faultless hair and make up, and (naturally) the perfect pregnant body. As a result, we of course look in the mirror and just don't seem to match up.
But you know - that bigger, rounder, softer you? Hell, it's gorgeous too.
HOTmilk Lingerie created an almighty fuss when they launched their sexy range in New Zealand, with the national press querying whether the catalogue wasn't soft porn. HOTmilk soon realised it wasn't the images of women in sensual lingerie that were the issue – it was the fact that the models were pregnant.
I know, shocking thought.
Sexy pregnant women?
Is that allowed?
Pregnant women being, you know, confident in their bodies?
Wearing sexy bras and knickers?
So – how about you? The baby is due in weeks, everything aches, pretty clothes won't fit, you're crying at animal rescue adverts and addicted to the Baby Channel's Real Birth shows. Why in the name of all things sensible would you choose to be photographed?
Well, really, why not?
You wouldn't hesitate to have photographs of your wedding day. Of your new baby's smile.
Why? Because those are the tiny, fleeting moments you want to grab onto.
Is pregnancy not one of the very biggest of the biggies? Of course it is.
Pregnancy portraits may be the latest tick box on the very best pregnancy To Do Lists; but actually, probably accidentally for most, it is so much more than a trendy tick on that list.
A professional pregnancy photographer will ensure your images are beautiful and flattering - and a long way from what you expect to see.
The Pregnancy Photographer
They will look after you, and ensure your images are beautiful, flattering, a little daring, a little sexy - and about as far removed as you can get of that shot your partner took of you one evening in your dressing gown, exhausted and curled around a mug of tea.
Looking at the images of pregnant you - strong, beautiful, sculptured and amazingly feminine (and, yes, glamorous too) will change your perception of yourself.
Having a baby is an amazing thing, and pregnancy photography helps you see past the rounder, wider, softer body you avoid in the mirror, and see the intensely brilliant, gorgeous woman you are.
As Amy wrote recently after viewing her images "I, as a pregnant woman, feel beautiful again".
And of course, the more people do it, the more we see these portraits hanging in houses, the more 'normal' they become – and the more we break down that pregnant body taboo that should have been consigned to the archives long long ago. We clearly knew this 17,000 years ago.
How did we forget?