You find out you are pregnant. You’re happy. What do you do next? Well, if you are Brazilian you immediately book a photographer who will preferably shoot you in scenic Rio de Janeiro.
And if it’s Saturday in Rio’s parks and beaches, it must be pregnancy portrait day.
Beatriz Costa Vasconcelos, who is heavily pregnant, is standing in the middle of the forest wearing a lace shirt that’s open to better show off her bare belly.
Photographer Alexandre Carniere tells the husband to move into the shot and to place his hands on her midriff. Close your eyes, he tells her, and think about your new child.
The scene looks serene. Carniere says he’s trying to immortalize a moment.
“Our mission is to try and capture the connection between the families,” he says.
Except so too are other photographers who are waiting with their pregnant clients to take a picture in the same place.
It’s 8 a.m. and there are at least 10 photographers here already. Possibly more.
The first time I went to the pond at the visually stunning Botanical Gardens, I thought I’d inadvertently stumbled onto a human spawning ground or some kind of fertility rite. Every woman I saw was about to give birth. Their hair was coiffed. Their bellies were bare in form fitting outfits.
Ale Crisostamo, a photographer who has been working with families for eight years, is extremely passionate about her work and her images are beautiful. She says there is a lot more competition these days and she tries to be inventive.
“This is a beautiful moment,” she says. “I like to capture the look in women’s eyes, the love, the waiting for the big day.”
The parks in Rio de Janeiro are the most popular places to shoot, she says. People come from other cities to take their pictures here, like the photographer Carniere, who has traveled from another state.
“In Rio, there is a kind of magic that brings people to here, because of the nature, the landscapes. The beauty that we have here,” says Carniere.
There’s another reason the parks are in demand, Carniere says.
“People search for these locations because of security as well,” he says. “Because shooting on the street is very dangerous actually. We have very expensive equipment and it’s hard to work and feel unsafe.”
Getting mugged would kind of ruin the moment.
So how much does this cost? It isn’t cheap. Ale’s pregnancy package starts off at $550.
Carniere says there are several reasons people want to spend money on this.
First, social media. It’s huge in Brazil.
Second, everyone has a camera. How to get the social media edge? Professional pictures, especially if you have friends that have done it.
“More and more families are searching for a professional to do better photos,” to get that something special he says.
Sociologist Marisol Goia has a list of 10 reasons why there’s been a boom in these photos. They include the expansion of the middle class with more buying power. The Brazilian love of family. The fact that pregnant bodies are now seen as beautiful and not shameful.
And then she said something that really resonated.
Brazilian birth rates are now among the lowest in the region. Women, who are well represented in the work force, are increasingly having just one kid.
“So that pregnancy becomes something almost sacred. It needs to be celebrated. These pictures do that,” she says.
At the end of the interview Marisol suddenly whipped out her own pregnancy album to show me.
When I said everyone does it, I meant it.