When Pooja Deshpande was pregnant with her daughter Mihika, she decided to use her maternity leave to learn more about photography. After chancing upon a few images of pregnant women showing off their baby bumps, Deshpande realised she wanted to jump on the bandwagon too. “When it’s your first baby, you want to document every moment,” she says, adding, “I wanted a few shots of me connecting with my baby, even though it was in my womb.”
She’s one of the many women now opting to show off their bump for a photographer’s lens, even though Indian traditions recommend concealing the belly to avoid inviting the gaze of an ‘evil eye’.
While the rest of the family was hesitant initially, her husband jumped at the thought. “He was the one who encouraged me to do the research,” she says. The fact that maternity photographer Shreya Sen was a woman, and the shoot took place at Deshpande’s home, won her family over.
“The mothers’ excitement is what comes across in the photos, and that can’t be replicated by a model,” explains Sen, who started her career in fashion photography, adding, “I encourage them to expose their bellies. Even if they’re a little uncomfortable at first, it helps to have the husband participate and to work with a concept and props.” Deshpande agrees, saying, “Now, I love showing the photos off. I don’t know anyone else in my friend circle who has done it, so it’s unique.” Photographer Shaalini of Chubby Clicks adds, “The concept is picking up because these photos are very personal. The women aren’t putting them up in a public space, but they still want to preserve the memories of this time.”
Started by actor Demi Moore in the west, and showcased recently by people like Konkona Sen Sharma, maternity photography allows pregnant women to feel comfortable and beautiful in their own skin. “It had never crossed my mind,” admits freelance stylist Priya Sachdeva. Ask what made her take the plunge and she says, “When I see old photographs of my mother, and she says ‘oh, I was pregnant with you at that time,’ I feel like preserving them. This shoot I’ve done is special, and the pictures will go into her baby book.”
Tips to remember
* Surf the Internet to get ideas that you can incorporate into your own shoot.
* Get your spouse involved. Women tend to feel better when they have someone’s emotions to play off.
* Shoot in a space that feels familiar and personal. It’s important to look natural and comfortable in your photos.
* Use props like bibs, candles, posters, flowers and balloons to add an element of fun.
Contact Shreya Sen at www.shreyasenphotography.com. Cost: Rs 15,000 for 35 edited images and 10 large prints.
Contact Shaalini at www.chubbyclicks.com. Cost: Rs 8,000 for 20 pictures plus an album.