Koren Reyes in the Press > Forbes Magazine features Koren's Pregnancy Photography

Growing Demand To Bare The Belly
Tara Weiss, 12.14.07, 12:30 PM ET

©Koren Reyes
Francesca Mannarino-Werz and Jamie Werz
Christina Aguilera isn't the only one getting naked for a photographer during the last months of her pregnancy.

Aguilera, who is due in the new year, joined Demi Moore, Cindy Crawford and Britney Spears when she posed nude for Marie Claire's January issue. Ordinary moms-to-be are shedding their stretchy maternity waste bands to be photographed too. Think of it as their first family photo.

Many moms say they want to remember what their body looked like when they were with child. Others say it's a way to alter society's squeamishness toward the exposed pregnant belly. Whatever the reason, it's a booming business for portrait photographers.

Koren Reyes was laid off from the derivatives group at Bear Stearns in 2002, she took up photography. It blended the technical and artistic sides of her brain. She started with nude photos of women over 40, and while she received many compliments on her work, "the phone wasn't ringing." She did some research and learned that maternity photography was "gaining traction."

That's when she hit the jackpot. "Within a week of setting up the business Web site, my phone was ringing off the hook," says
Reyes, whose studio is Midtown Manhattan. "I have seen an explosion of people doing this." For the past two years, Reyes has focused solely on maternity photography and is happy to report that it provides "a good six-figure income."

The photo sessions don't come cheap.
Reyes charges a fee for the shoot and the photos come separately. On average, her clients spend $3,000 on the photos alone. Another Los Angeles photographer, who specializes in pregnancy and baby portraits in the Los Angeles area, says her work ranges between $2,000 and $7,000.

It's an extremely competitive business.
Reyes says she once answered a call from a competitor who pretended to be a client looking for information. When Reyes told the caller that her caller I.D. displayed where the call was coming from, she played dumb. Some say other photographers have "lifted" images from Web sites to put them on theirs.

She attributes the competitive nature of the business to how essential it's become to many expectant mothers. "It's now on the check-list of what pregnant women do," say other photographers. "They get the baby stroller, registry and pregnancy portrait. It's become the norm."

And not just on the coasts. She's noticed that it's taking hold across the country.

Some observers are struck by how bold pregnant women are today. "I was just discussing with my wife whether she would have taken these pictures when she was pregnant 31 years ago," says Skip Cohen, president of the trade group Wedding and Portrait Photographers International. "She said the last thing she would have wanted is a portrait taken."

It just goes to show how society's view of pregnancy has evolved. Cohen measures the rise of maternity photography by the number of entries into an annual trade group competition. About two years ago he noticed a significant increase in the number of submissions of nude pregnant women. Also, between 75% and 80% of the trade group's 8,000-person membership have been asked to take these types of pictures.

It's been almost 17 years since Demi Moore posed nude for Vanity Fair in 1991. Britney Spears reawakened the image when she posed for Harper's Bazaar in 2006. Those visions clearly resonated with many women. When Francesca Mannarino-Werz saw the Demi Moore pictorial, she was struck by its beauty. She had her photos taken by
Reyes six weeks before she gave birth to her son Mason, now eight months.

"I'll never forget seeing Demi Moore on the cover of the magazine looking so beautiful pregnant," says Mannarino-Werz, a residential real estate broker in Manhattan. "I swore when the day came I'd do it too. I also wanted to remember myself in that state with my child. Now that I did it, I'm so happy that I have these photographs."

She spent about five hours with
Reyes, posing in different states of undress. In some images, she is covered by a burnt orange-colored cloth. Her husband snuggles her bare top from behind in others.
"Women are not hiding their bodies," says
Reyes. "Women tend to be in shape. They're also waiting a little longer to have children. By waiting, a lot of women have a hard time getting pregnant. When they finally do and can keep it to term, there's a sense of happiness and they want to capture it."

The best of these portraits looks like art. The women are often draped in beautiful fabrics, and the use of light and shade gives them a dreamlike quality. These maternity photos are not the "smile and say cheese" pictures of the past. Since the '90s, there has been a movement for portrait photographers to take photo-journalistic pictures, and these maternity photos are an outgrowth of that, says Cohen.

Pregnancy photography specialists suspect that's why there's been a rise in pregnancy portraits. "There are a lot of women having babies later," she says. "I have a lot of clients who are over 40 and having babies. They've lived an adult life. They work and make their own money. I'm dealing with a more sophisticated audience, and they want to put a piece of art on their wall."

And while Demi, Cindy, Britney and Christina are letting the whole world view their swelling bellies, most moms-to-be prefer to keep their portraits in the privacy of their own bedrooms.

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