One of the wonderful twins whom I worked with on a dramatic project 9 years ago asked for a maternity shoot in Manhattan. The other supporting twin joined us for a bloom, Grate Dane, sunset, fine art nude, and a milk bath.
Here’s fabulous Ira and her sister Olya. I met them through stylist and makeup artist Elena Komer in 2012. We collaborated on a creative series of light vs. darkness theme at Downhouse Lounge in Brooklyn (closed in 2016).
Ira and I stayed in close touch on Facebook. Did a commercial project for a now-closed boutique Georgian restaurant in Manhattan. Then I helped her with casting for a documentary, reaching out to my married Indian couples living in America.
Imagine how thrilled I was to hear from Ira past January when she told me of her pregnancy and interest in a maternity shoot in Manhattan where she now lives. She melted my heart, saying that all these years she had wanted me as a maternity photographer when her time would come.
We started at her apartment across the Lincoln Center. She sings, writes poetry, and loves music and concerts. We planned to incorporate the Lincoln Center as a symbol of her cultural traits, but it went into renovation and looked more like a construction site, unfortunately.
As it is often the case with longer sessions like this (at least half a day), I brought a load of studio equipment with me. Set it all up in her apartment and spent the first hour playing with the studio and natural light.
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Sister Olya joined us for a family portrait. I also wanted to play on the twin’s similarity and imitate a “before-and-after” feel. Incidentally, the lighting here brought back those memories of the 2012 light/dark project, just not as dramatic and contrasty.
One of the dresses Ira had in mind was a stunning tribute to a cityscape (she’s interested in architecture). It got to be shot among the high-rise apartment buildings of the area! I invited her to step out briefly in that dress although it wouldn’t close in the back, as not being an actual maternity dress. How lucky did we get when bumping into a black Great Dane in the elevator! I talked to the owner, a young fella who was game lending the dog for a few cosmopolitan shots.
There was another fortunate dog encounter in 2009 when I was shooting a wedding and took the couple on early Sunday morning to Wall Street. I saw a man walking his unbelievable dog that looked like a white wolf, and ran to ask to borrow the creature. The area was pretty deserted at that wee hour, creating this iconic image with a bit of insane post-apocalyptic feel open to a movie script interpretation.
Returned to the apartment and changed into a merrier spring-like peach gown. Spring was indeed in the air, and Ira timed her maternity shoot in Manhattan around the blooming season.
Waiting for the blooming season took her quite close to the due date, by the way—she gave birth four weeks after the shoot! I advise having maternity sessions done as early as 5th or 6th months for several reasons. One of them is physical condition and endurance. For most women, the final 9th month is a challenge to move around, let alone pose. Ira, however, is a fitness junkie and can’t live without gym. It helped her look slender in her 9th month! Some, like my wife, unexplainably seem to not gain much “baby fat” in pregnancy even without having gym as part of their lifestyle. Oh, and I remember another tough young lady shooting days before giving birth… in the mountains of Alaska which we had to climb a little:
Some ladies raise a concern of not showing the belly that early (5-6th months) while agreeing on the easier flow of early maternity shoots. I explain I can bump the belly size in Photoshop. This achieves a realistic proportion with their slimmer bodies, still free of the extra “baby fat” increasing toward the last months of pregnancy. Here’s an underwater maternity shot for a woman on her 5th month:
So, we went to the Central Park and found several beautiful blooming sites. The day was ending, giving us a warm sunset to bathe in. Going into her fourth hour of the photo session showed signs even on the athletic expecting mom. We needed to give Ira a caring break and let her relax under that flower bush for a while.
Finally, we went back home for a concluding portion of this gorgeous maternity shoot in Manhattan. The mom-to-be was ready to bare more skin aesthetically. Of note, I shot a boudoir session that same morning before coming to Ira. Yet, it was this maternity, not that boudoir, that went nude. The last shots were taken in her bathroom using a milk bath. It had to be a quick one, so not as many milk bath images as in my other sessions like this.
Looks like everything you need from a perfect maternity shoot in Manhattan. You have your home studio portraits, an outdoor metropolitan feel, beauty of blooming Central Park, some fine art nude, and a gentle milk bath finale! My warm wishes to baby Adeline, born last week, and her strong, smart mom with a supportive twin sister! Beauty and care to you, ladies!
Makeup by Olga Tsoy