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Fertile Variations: The Pregnant Body with Photographer Robyn Beattie

Posted Jul 04 2011 2:14pm
pregnant body, floral shadows
Fertile 1
pregnant body, many floral shadows

Fertile 2

 

pregnant body, octagonal tile pattern

Fertile 3

 

pregnant body, eggplant and gold hues

Fertile 4

 

 

 

 

 

In your artist’s statement (read in full here ), you state, “Most of my photographs reflect my fascination with the mysterious and with nature’s processes: the magic of seeds, birth and metamorphosis; the beauty in stain, death and decay. I am drawn to places like forgotten alleyways, dark cracks, holes in the road, and abandoned buildings. I look for shapes in the ashes of a fireplace, rusty metal, or broken glass. Many of my pieces are macro, small portions of something, rather than the whole item.” Many of your photographs focus on inanimate objects; so how do you go about photographing a pregnant woman? What is different about that process for you?

 When I photograph inanimate objects, I am often so close that I cannot see any of the surroundings or the background. With people, that is nearly impossible. I like working with fabrics as a background when photographing people, often using solid colors rather than patterns. The attributes of fabric that I like are the softness, the organic folds, the lack of straight edges.

Another factor that comes into play is the person’s face, their personality, and sometimes their modesty. So overall, I find it more challenging.

 How do you navigate the intimacy and privacy of your photo sessions with a pregnant woman?

 I think a lot of women and couples like the idea of being photographed outdoors, though it often involves less comfort, more vulnerability and lack of privacy. They often find the intimacy of their own home or yard, the comfort of a bed or couch, more relaxing. In contrast however, I once photographed a pregnant woman in a grove of bamboo, and the juxtaposition of the round belly with the upright bamboo stalks was very interesting.

 Does your interest in pregnancy photos extend beyond those couples who approach you for a session (do you foresee exploring other types of pregnancy photos—where would you see your work growing/changing in this area)?

 I am fascinated with the miracle of birth, knowing that it all starts with two tiny entities, so small they can only be seen through a microscope, finding each other, somehow, in the vastness of a womb. I have read that there is a flash of light when they meet, and bond. Fantastic, for me that is the miracle of life.

 The first and second photographs here, rich with patterns delicately shadowing the human form, are direct—only thinly veiled, so to speak. What did you discover in adapting the third and fourth photographs—the octagonal “tile” patterned version, as well as the more eggplant iridescent version?

 I have always loved the shadows that lace makes, and pairing that with the gorgeous pregnant body seems like a perfect match. The original photo that became what you so eloquently called “eggplant iridescent” is one of my favorite pregnancy photos. The simplicity of the image speaks volumes to me, and shows so unabashedly the beauty of a pregnant woman. It was fun to play in Photoshop, taking a piece that may have been too private/personal in its original form, yet wonderful in composition, and turn it into something more painterly.

 Who do you consider your photography mentors, or do you wish to discuss work you are inspired by?

 I did not have any photography mentors, but have always appreciated those whose work strove to simplify, to show the deep, core aspects of an experience. I have long been a fan of black and white photography, and am especially drawn to the work of Tina Modotti, Edward Weston , Imogen Cunningham, and Burton Pritzker , to name a few.

Robyn Beattie, Artist Statement:

I was born to bohemian parents of the San Francisco Beat era. Our family moved to the redwoods west of Healdsburg when I was five years old, and the dappled shadows of these giant trees was my home into adulthood. My father, Paul Beattie, was a recognized Abstract Expressionist. He often drew, sculpted, and painted for 16 hours a day, creating images that reflected his knowledge of astronomy and physics. His artworks continue to influence the way I see.

close up, Robyn Beattie's eye
Robyn Beattie

Other influences on my character include climbing Denali (aka Mt. McKinley), the highest mountain in North America; working as a naturalist guide in Costa Rica, where I also painted a 90-foot mural of the rain forest; and working as an archaeologist.

Most of my photographs reflect my fascination with the mysterious and with nature’s processes: the magic of seeds, birth and metamorphosis; the beauty in stain, death and decay. I am drawn to places like forgotten alleyways, dark cracks, holes in the road, and abandoned buildings. I look for shapes in the ashes of a fireplace, rusty metal, or broken glass. Many of my pieces are macro, small portions of something, rather than the whole item. Time seems to stand still when I am photographing. I often feel lost, absorbed in the moment, steeped in the awe I experience as I explore with my camera.

To view more of Robyn’s work, see her website: www.robynbeattie.com .

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