Rihanna takes the art of pregnancy photoshoots to the next level

by

The New York Times

The art form known as the “pregnant celebrity photo shoot” has a new candidate for queen. Rihanna and ASAP Rocky announced their first child with a posing shot by Miles Diggs, known as Diggzy, the 20-something photographer Vogue magazine describes as “fashion’s favorite paparazzi.”

The series of photos, posted on Instagram and sold to various media outlets, including The New York Times, shows Rihanna in a long, upholstered pink coat with gold buttons, over extra-long ripped jeans held up by a belt. leather and gold chains by Chanel.

Her midriff, framed by her coat (which British Vogue magazine identified as a “vintage” Chanel, though Chanel declined to comment), closed by a single chest-high button, appears to be covered only by a glittering bijou cross that hangs from a long string of pearls. Her hands are in the pockets of her jeans, and her hair is down. ASAP Rocky wears leather pants, a Carhartt denim jacket, a hooded sweatshirt, and a black beanie.

In one of the photos, they are walking hand in hand down a street in Harlem, New York, under elevated train tracks; in another, he’s kissing Rihanna’s forehead, creating a love circle of two. In all the images, there doesn’t seem to be anyone else around.

(There is what appears to be just a faint trace of snow in her hair, which indicates the photos were taken before the blizzard and frigid temperatures of the last weekend in January and released on a planned date.)

The framing is carefully calculated in its pretended intimacy, showing them in plain clothes, but without abandoning the message. “Captured” in a way that creates the feeling that the viewer is witnessing a private moment yet the images have clearly been choreographed down to the smallest detail, like the “vintage” diamond ring she wears on her finger.

In that sense, Rihanna’s photos are the latest stage in a photographic tradition whose origins can be traced back to the photo of pregnant Demi Moore that served as the cover of Vanity Fair magazine in 1991.

That portrait, which shows the actress with her arms wrapped around her distended belly and naked except for a gigantic diamond ring, was so outrageous when released that some stores banned the magazine cover from showing, despite it being protected by opaque paper. . The photo kicked off an image-making trend that has extended to Cindy Crawford, Britney Spears, Ciara and Gigi Hadid — though all of them were trumped by images of Beyoncé pregnant and wearing lingerie and a veil in 2017.

That photo set a new standard for managing the public announcement of a pregnancy, becoming not only the photo that received the most likes on Instagram that year, 11.1 million, but the launcher of a whole series of concept pregnancy photo shoots. posted later by the star.

Now, Rihanna has brought that tradition back down to earth, connecting it to two contemporary phenomena. First, the evolution of “street” fashion photography, from its origins as a photographic guerrilla to a new way of creating fashion images (the casual Friday equivalent); and second, the increasing use of social media as an image-building exercise. It’s a way for celebrities to communicate with their fanbase and community and to offer seemingly personal and candid glimpses into their lives in the most controlled and produced way possible.

In fact, Diggs, whose signature style is to photograph his models and subjects against a black and white background so that they stand out more, told Vogue that part of his success lay in his desire to portray his models in the best possible light and in his willingness to cancel sessions when the people he portrays are having a bad day.

Unlike Moore’s established tradition, which often involved being as naked as she could, or Beyoncé’s photo, which drew inspiration from art history, Rihanna chose a look and makeup that seem to represent a shrewd nod to fashion itself — specifically. to the first cover of Vogue under Anna Wintour’s management, in 1988, which featured Israeli model Michaela Bercu wearing old Guess jeans and a Christian Lacroix jacket, with an elaborate beaded cross on her chest, her wavy hair flying in the wind, laughing in the middle of the street.

At the time, the photo was considered revolutionary: a way to transform Vogue into a less dour magazine to demonstrate a rougher fashion era that would mix refined and simple elements, and an announcement about the arrival of a new power.

Now, Rihanna’s photos underscore the ease she has with taking ownership of establishment images and revising them for her own ends. Not to mention her talent for promoting products, two things that helped transform her from a simple fashion icon into a billionaire entrepreneur.

According to online commerce site Lovethesales, searches for “pink upholstery coats” increased by 200% in the hours after the photos were posted; searches for “ripped blue jeans” rose by 175%, and those for “pearl necklaces” by 80%. (ASAP Rocky also drove up searches for leather pants, Carhartt jackets and hoodies.)

All of which suggests that when it comes to maternity fashion — not to mention baby fashion — this could be just the beginning.

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