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Woe from Wit: Shocking Underwater Maternity Photoshoot

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This underwater maternity photoshoot was possibly the most paradoxical and anecdotal in my career, on the border of reality-TV-shocking.

There is a well-known comedy-in-verse in the Russian literature, a golden classic written by Alexander Griboyedov, “Woe from Wit” (“Горе от ума”). The title became a popular catchphrase and in simple terms, can be explained as complicating things due to one’s knowledge and thus causing a setback. I can very much relate to it with this underwater maternity session.

Now, forget for a moment the title of this story, forget the “underwater maternity” part. Picture a young woman calling you and asking about an underwater photoshoot. All the expected questions about a standard session—wardrobe, pool options, swimming techniques, “partner’s” participation, pricing, etc. One important detail—photos need to be ready within a month for a presentation at a “party”and we are in April, at least a month away from opening the pool season here in New York. I make calls, emails, and posts across my channels asking if anyone already has an open pool and thanks to a good Facebook friend Irene Keselman, found one and scheduled the photoshoot for the upcoming weekend. I asked for a few photos of the client to meet her virtually. All is good, looking forward to an artistic underwater photoshoot, also involving a partner and romance.

The day comes and I meet the beautiful Ashley and her partner. Cannot help professionally noticing some weight and started to plan strategically to address it. I had an honor of working with clients of all shapes and ages so nothing concerns or puzzles me. My ethics code and knowledge of etiquette (woe from wit) prevent me from asking Ashley if she’s pregnant (check out some articles on overweight vs. pregnancy) because she never mentioned the words “maternity” or “pregnant” during our phone and email conversations, and why should I? So, two things are happening: 1) I am being courteous and 2) I am doing my best to conceal the belly as any skilled professional photographer would…

This is going for hours for the duration of entire underwater photoshoot, and it is going pretty well. Ashley used to swim in school and feels comfortable. We finish four hours later and start packing. It is then when she goes Geronimo and drops the word “shower” when reminding me of the deadline for presentation. I pause and ask: “What kind of shower?” “Ah, baby shower,” she replies. I was so shocked realizing that I had just photographed a pregnant woman not only without developing some maternity poses but trying to hide her belly! I couldn’t elaborate on that with her on the spot and and just quietly took it home with me. I emailed the following day and asked her, apologizing for and pointing at her mentioning of “baby shower”, if she was indeed pregnant. She confirmed, we had a little LOL moment, and she admitted she was surprised that I hadn’t put her through some typical underwater maternity poses focusing on the belly. Can you put yourself in her fins??

Later as I was going over the shoot, I was fishing out the images where the belly managed to peek out. There were cool others but they wouldn’t be about pregnancy. In my defense, by the way, her friends agree that the belly is quite small even for her term. Since I didn’t know that I was shooting a pregnant woman and wasn’t trying to highlight the belly like for my other underwater maternity clients, I had to also apply some Photoshop magic here. Gotta say, the results are surprisingly good with all things considered, don’t you think?

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I would like to thank Zdena Nemcova, an expecting mother of 4 redheads, who graciously allowed us to use her pool. To give her something back, I offered mini sessions for her children, the oldest already a professional model in her young age of 8 (New York Models’ Kids division). I tried to photograph Samantha underwater but it was too cold for her and the lack of underwater experience made it difficult for a proper portrait session so we cut it short. Her younger siblings had not gotten as much of professional modeling exposure yet so we refocused on them.

And finally, a couple of behind-the-scene shots during the tests. As you can see, I trigger my studio speedlights with one of the Ikelite’s flashes running from the underwater camera housing.

Ed Hafizov
Ed Hafizov
Ed Hafizov is a creative director and lead photographer of Zorz Studios, Manhattan-based boutique photography studio, offering arousing and daring fashion, commercial, beauty, and wedding photography. Multiple Fearless Photographer™ award winner, named among the top 50 US wedding photographers, top 10 NY wedding photographers, winner of Adobe contests, featured by Vogue, Cosmopolitan, Elle et al, Mercedes Benz Fashion Week photographer, and a distinguished member of Grace Ormonde Wedding Style‘s Platinum List, he is eager to step out of his and willing clients' comfort zone to pursue original artwork with a lasting impression.