Gone are the days when flaunting the bump was a big no-no and women would hide their growing tummy under androgynous or oversized clothes. We have the B-Town mommies to thank for turning this around and showing the world that it’s perfectly natural to flaunt the new curve and there is no reason to hide changing bodies. Kareena Kapoor Khan became the poster girl of maternity fashion when she posed for a magazine cover and also walked the ramp donning Sabyasachi’s designer masterpiece flaunting her baby bump. Many others like Konkona Sen Sharma, Anushka Sharma, Neha Dhupia, Esha Deol, Lisa Haydon too posed for magazine covers during their pregnancy. Most recently, Bipasha and Sonam shared aesthetic photos flaunting their baby bump, which took social media by storm.
In the last decade, thanks to celebrities flaunting their baby bumps with panache, the trend of maternity photoshoots has caught on amongst urban Indians too. Inspired by B-Town divas, maternity fashion is the in thing today, and believe it or not a baby bump just might be the best accessory for expecting women.
In this week’s #BigStory, we go back to the origin of maternity photoshoots, how the trend caught up in India even with commoners, the impact of such photoshoots on a celeb/influencer’s digital presence and their brand value. We also explore how momfluencers deal with social stigma and negativity when it comes to flaunting their bump. Read on.
Where it all began
One image that still sticks when you mention pregnancy photoshoots is the one from 1991 when a seven month pregnant Demi Moore posed naked cradling her baby bump for the cover of Vanity Fair. It had caused an international outcry back then. While some lauded the photographer Annie Leibovitz for making a powerful artistic statement, others thought the image was obscene. “It was groundbreaking and a major shift in attitude while most moms-to-be were still camouflaging their bellies,” says fashion photographer Rahul Jhangiani.
However, it started a trend of women coming forward to be artistically photographed during pregnancy. And over two decades later, maternity photography finally picked up in India.
Fashion photographer Prasad Naik who shot the most recent maternity pictures of Bipasha Basu and Karan Singh Grover, recalls his first ever pregnancy cover shoot with Kareena Kapoor Khan. “I shot with Bebo first for Grazia magazine. That’s how the maternity photoshoots began in India. I don’t think I had seen any such shoots on magazine covers earlier in our country. She’s (Bebo) always the one to start some or the other trend,” he tells ETimes.
International icons like Meghan Markle, Kim and Khloe Kardashian, Kate Hudson, Gwyneth Paltrow, Beyonce, Chrissy Teigen, Gigi Hadid, Nikki Bella and many others rocked couture looks as they flaunted their baby bumps. Not long ago singer Rihanna redefined pregnancy style with her baby bump baring maternity wardrobe. “I’m hoping that we were able to redefine what’s considered ‘decent’ for pregnant women,” she told Vogue. “My body is doing incredible things right now, and I’m not going to be ashamed of that. This time should feel celebratory. Because why should you be hiding your pregnancy?”
Renowned photography entrepreneur Amrita Samant who runs a company that specialises in maternity and child photography left her cushy corporate job to pursue this passion in 2013. “Maternity and child photography was a popular concept in the West, but there were no specialists in India. So motherhood photography was something I began with and I was desperately looking for people in India to get some guidance. But there was no one, except for some age-old studios. About a year after I started there were about 3 or 4 people in India pursuing it, too. So we created a community of child photography which has now turned into a complete ecosystem,” she shares.
One of the first celebrities Amrita worked with was cricketer Ashwin Ravichandran and his wife for a maternity shoot. “It sparked quite a lot of interest across the South. Then I worked with Sameera Reddy, Kajal Aggarwal, Gul Panag and then I started getting a lot more invites from Bombay. That’s how the whole concept grew with time and then of course locally in different parts of India, other photographers started doing the same thing. Even wedding photographers started taking up child photography and maternity shoots during the off season,” she adds.
Shooting with a pregnant lady is certainly different from any other photoshoot. Dealing with the emotions and ensuring she is comfortable can be challenging and also overwhelming. Prasad sheds light on the process of conceptualisation and execution of maternity photoshoots. “It’s a very personal thing and I feel each photographer will come out with a different picture. I think you as a photographer also need to be a part of their happiness, only then it will translate in the picture. Bipasha is a very old friend, so obviously I had to be a part of her joy,” he says.
Rahul Jhangiani adds, “Many women choose to celebrate the changes their body undergoes while others are more conservative. As a photographer you need to understand their needs and level of comfort. In terms of concepts, it’s quite personal, choosing the fabrics that drape beautifully around a pregnant body is basic! In the end it’s about making them comfortable and they should love looking back at their pictures as a lifetime memory.”
When commoners joined the trend
For young parents, maternity photoshoots became a norm as social media normalised the sharing of personal moments. Also, several celebrities stepping out of their comfort zone and sharing their maternity journey encouraged and motivated others to celebrate their own lives in a similar way. Now so many mothers-to-be feel confident about posing before the camera.
“Earlier, many social taboos surrounded the idea of photographing pregnant women. A fashion inspired maternity shoot was unheard of but things have changed. There is less discomfort around women wanting to celebrate their pregnancy,” says Rahul Jhangiani.
Celebrity photographer Vickky Idnaani shares he has seen a surge in enquiries for maternity photoshoots from non celebrity clients. “A lot of couples are contacting me for pre-wedding and pregnancy shoots. However keeping up with the international exposure, the
sur of these pictures is changing from Indian exotic. A lot of couples like Western chic and some even like to celebrate the human form in its full glory with a lot of skin show.”
Rahul Jhangiani agrees as he says, “I do get an increasing number of non-celeb clients! Celebrities and fashion bloggers have really fueled the trend. It’s become almost every mommy-to-be’s checklist. Women, especially millennials, don’t feel they have to hide their pregnancies. Maternity clothes are fashion forward and beautiful. Women feel empowered to show off their bumps.”
Boosting the brand value
Celebrity pregnancy announcements inarguably grab the maximum eyeballs on the internet especially since social media trends around this subject have been catching up, thick and fast. The exponential growth in engagement and reach on such posts have caught the attention of brands thus creating a plethora of opportunities for pregnant women. In the last 7 years, the mom and child industry is said to have grown into a 12000-crore industry. Today there are so many big and small businesses focussing on the child industry that give opportunities to celebs and momfluencers. The larger exposure, of course, comes with celebrities.
Media analyst Karan Taurani notes it’s a win-win for celebs as well as brands. “While celebs get endorsement deals relevant to the maternity vertical, it also helps the brand in a positive way as they can attract a sizable audience base by doing a tie-up with stars. This helps boost a brand’s product sales. We have seen a huge number of maternity brands come up in the recent past due to awareness on social media, change in mindset and acceptability and also celebs endorsing them,” he says.
Amrita Samant has been in the business for over 9 years and has done over 2500 shoots in India. She’s had over 20000 enquiries at her multiple studios in India and Singapore. “This whole ecosystem has become so huge. It starts with the maternity shoot and it becomes a 2-year relationship because we cover the baby’s milestones. Every mom today is trying to become an influencer. Those who are social and extroverted are all becoming momfluencers. They talk about parenting, different aspects of parenting on social media and get several brand associations,” she says.
Actresses like Kareena Kapoor Khan, Anushka Sharma, Dia Mirza are investing in mom and child brands and not just being a part of the ecosystem but also helping it grow. Anushka invested in a healthy snack brand, Dia invested in a sustainable toy company. There are so many options in this industry and they’re making the most of it.
“It’s a new age mother,” says Prasad Naik. “Earlier everybody was secretive and now it’s all out there. It’s a part of their life and they are not hiding anything. It’s cool!”
Geeta Basra, a mother to two kids, shares quite a few brands associated with her during and after pregnancy. “But that’s not just why we do the photoshoots. That’s just part and parcel of the profession. It’s just a moment of happiness and sheer joy of something beautiful being inside your body. Why would you not shoot it and show it?” she says.
Dealing with social media negativity
Pregnancies today have taken a whole new meaning. It’s an exciting time and a special journey, it’s a time women want to chronicle and the maternity shoots let them do that. But sharing the joy on the internet comes with its share of barbs and brickbats. Body shaming, age shaming, distasteful comments about outfits surface in social media comments. Bipasha Basu has been the latest victim of trolling after she shared her maternity pictures.
Actress Debina Bonnerjee who also announced her second pregnancy with a social media post believes it is a matter of perspective. “For some it is inspiring, for others it is not. So you receive both positive and negative responses. But I feel that flaunting a baby bump should be as cherished as flaunting washboard abs. As celebs are coming out and flaunting their bump, it is inspiring many other women to embrace motherhood. Otherwise for the last couple of years, pregnancy was synonymous with completely taking a backseat, becoming absent from the public eye and thereafter sitting back at home and only taking care of the baby. As more and more women are embracing motherhood, flaunting their bump, it proves that women are embracing this part of their journey with as much ease as their career and not vanishing during pregnancy and even working after delivering the child,” she says.
Mother of two, actress Sameera Reddy says it is a woman’s choice the way she would like to celebrate her pregnancy. “I am quite surprised trolling still exists in today’s day and age. And frankly, it didn’t hinder me one bit because I knew exactly what I wanted to do with my underwater shoot when Nyra was in my tummy. And till today, it’s one of the most beautiful photographs I’ve ever shot in my life. So what people think doesn’t bother me and I don’t think it should bother any mother who would like to have memories of the most beautiful time of her life. We keep forgetting that childbirth, pregnancy and motherhood are some of the most beautiful, miraculous experiences of life. Why do we hide it? Bodies change, bodies evolve and a new life is celebrated. I think Bipasha is going to be a gorgeous mom and I wish her all the best,” she says.
Geeta Basra adds, “When you have so many other celebrations with pictures, why wouldn’t you celebrate being a mother in a similar way? There are people sitting to troll for every single thing in your life. This just happens to be one more topic for them. But there’s so much beauty in that bump. Women struggle to get pregnant and this is a celebration to show it off. Some people have years of struggle to conceive and they want to show it off. It’s a feat of its own. Who is anyone to judge and who is anyone to pass a comment? Today people have become more vocal because of social media and the amount of pictures that are circulated.”
Esha Deol did her maternity shoot with Bharat Takhtani during her babymoon in Greece. “I was very excited as it was my first pregnancy. I wore a beautiful Greek-inspired white gown and accessorised it with a headband. Sharing pictures has become a trend because of social media. Thank god, people loved it. I didn’t experience any trolling. It’s a very personal thing and it depends on the personality of the woman and how she wants to shine through in all her glory of pregnancy,” she says.
Vickky Idnaani suggests mothers should share their pictures only when they are really ready. “We all need to make our own rules, however respecting your spouse, your family and having the tact of doing it correctly is what will prepare you for the upcoming motherhood. Not posting pictures on a whim. Shoot all kinds of pictures, but post only what you believe in, when the time is right,” he concludes.