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On Getting Naked While Pregnant, Posing For Pictures and Being "Ripe"

This week I had the great pleasure of interviewing Alexa Garbarino, the photographer behind a fantastic new book of nude pregnant portraits, “Ripe.”

Garbarino’s portraits–naked pregnant women posing in mostly outdoor settings– are sexy, funny, personal and powerful. Each has a story to go with it. To the left is one of my favorites– exposed pregnancy bumps are pretty common these days but a curvy postpartum mother? How awesome?

Check out the interview in which Garbarino offers some tips for taking a great pregnancy photo.

How did you pull off the nude pic on the Brooklyn Bridge and in the middle of a New York street? And the subway?!

The shots in outdoor public places are done very early… we’re usually there even before the light comes up so I can set up my camera and get the model into position. At the Brooklyn Bridge shoot, there were sporadic cyclists, but my husband was a lookout at the tower and Jen’s husband was at the end of the bridge. We just waited for the riders to pass before I began shooting.  And I shoot very fast, so the model is never naked for more that 20 seconds at a time.

The shoot of Jess on the #6 train was hilarious. The subways were hopping, even at 4 in the morning, but Jess was game. She threw off her coat as she stood in the middle of the aisle, flanked by two unsuspecting passengers, and I started shooting. They bolted out the doors at the 51st station, laughing as they went, and then we had the train to ourselves until we reached Grand Central.


Did these women worry about getting naked in (sometimes public) outdoor spaces?

Most women had some anxiety initially.  I definitely waited for strangers to be out of range before asking the model to disrobe, but really, at that stage of a pregnancy, who hasn’t seen you naked?  That’s how I felt, anyway.  It seemed that while I was going through fertility treatments, I was getting naked for just about anyone that happened by. So when I finally got pregnant, I did my self-portrait in Times Square and happily waved to the occasional club kids stumbling up the street at 5 a.m.  Like myself, I think all the models felt exhilarated and a little giddy after the shoot, but most of all, they felt proud to document their pregnancy in such a big way.

The women in your pictures are joyful or contemplative but they always come off as strong– shoulders back, arms in the air, pregnant and proud! Did that ever require couching from you?

It seemed like the model’s first instinct was to cradle her belly once she was exposed, a brief, protective gesture.  But after a few moments, she would go into a position that was inspired by her surroundings as well as by her feeling about being pregnant how could you not throw your arms triumphantly in the air while strutting naked across the Brooklyn Bridge! Aside from me directing a woman to nudge a hand or foot here or there, the models went right into it.  What I love is that the portraits illustrate so many different qualities in these women – passion, elegance, humor, pride, vulnerability, romance, and most definitely strength.

Can you give me five quick tips for taking a good pregnancy photo?

Keep it simple — especially if you’re on location — there’s no time to fuss with hair and makeup when you have a minute to get the shot.
Know your best angles — photographer and model should discuss her most flattering angles and positions beforehand so their isn’t a lot of guesswork at the site.
Avoid tight clothes don’t wear bras or undies before the shoot because they leave impression lines. Wear shoes that can slip off and on easily.<
Keep your body long arch your back, even take a breath, to give your body a more elongated and elegant bearing. Sitting poses are the hardest to pull off to show your gorgeous belly.
Feel beautiful – because you are, and that will come through in the photograph.

Thanks Alexa, for a wonderful interview and a great book! You can buy RIPE here.

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