The Maternity Project
In February of 2017, Beyoncé Knowles announced her pregnancy with the release of a maternity shoot that she had done in collaboration with photographer Awol Erizku. The Internet was in a frenzy and social media platforms were buzzing with opinion. The photographs seemed to be met with either high praise or harsh criticism. I came across one discussion in which a commenter asked why Beyoncé, a person with such wealth and reputation who could choose any photographer she wanted, would choose a photographer with such a “kitschy” style. Many seemed to think the photos lacked sophistication in its art direction, while others identified symbolism and a deeper meaning.
All of this buzz got me thinking: what about pregnant mothers who cannot afford a "sophisticated" maternity shoot? What about pregnant mothers who cannot afford a maternity shoot at all? I started thinking about all the maternity photos I see on Instagram and in photography forums. I googled every combination of words that would bring up relevant images. I saw a pattern emerge. Most of these shoots were very stylized, the images all had similarities in locations, style and poses; but the most important thing I noticed was that the mothers all seemed to fit a certain “look”- thin, white, able-bodied, and exuded an air of wealth or comfort. There was an undeniable lack of representation in black and brown mothers. I also spoke with a close friend who was pregnant and desired photos but said she had been quoted an outrageous $700 for a session and simply could not afford it.
That’s when the idea for my project was born. I am someone who believes that photography should be used as a tool for good whenever possible. A tool that can elevate unheard voices and uplift those that exist in marginalized communities. This project provides free maternity sessions for mothers across Chicago, with priority given to WOC.
My goal is to win a grant that would provide funding toward outreach efforts, including visiting women’s shelters or Planned Parenthood, making flyers, transportation expenses, the cost of high-quality printing (in the event that someone does not have access to a computer to keep their photos), and whatever necessary gear I may need such as lighting.
I have only had a couple of subjects so far. Their participation and reaction to the photos made me so happy and fulfilled that I was able to do a service like this for someone. I look forward to continuing this project and hopefully make a positive impact in people's lives.