Catherine Steinmann was simply taking a lighting class and needed a model to work with. At the time her pregnant niece seemed to be a great choice. And so pregnant nudes were born.
Steinmann refers to the pregnant nude as the "ultimate subject." Many women come to her to record the efforts of their pregnancies. Each has their own story, their own thought process behind the photographs. "It's a very intimate time we spend together," Steinmann says. "They are often exhausted after the hour and a half session."
However, the results are startling. Many women come back again and again with each pregnancy.
Using pieces of fabric she finds in a variety of stores to drape her models, she creates an unusually soft look of the pregnant form. Couple this with her lighting, filters, and most importantly, her motherly instinct and you've got a series of very dramatic and gorgeous shots.
When I asked Steinmann what made her work different she said that she felt there were many factors involved. She believes that being a woman gives her an edge that a man could never obtain, ensuring that her models feel at ease during the sessions. Being a mother gives her an empathy for pregnancy. And her years of experience give her a wisdom of her technique.
After talking with Steinmann for over an hour, and many e-mails, I would like to add that it's also her attention to detail. The fact that she irons each piece of fabric prior to a session. It's her personality, she's a warm and caring person, even over the phone. She is the type of person that would set you at ease and allow you to be your beautiful pregnant self for the camera.
Demi Moore did it. Cindy Crawford did it. Why not you?
And many women are doing it.
Steinmann works out of her studio in New York City, where she has worked with the pregnant nudes for over 12 years. She loves what she does and hasn't raised her fees since she began her work. Her enthusiasm and tranquillity show through in her work as each mother expresses her story in a unique way.
Men are also wanting to be captured in these memories as well. "More men are coming in and saying, 'I want to be in this too.'"
While many women travel to her studio in New York City from all over, she dreams of being able to spread her dream around. "I'd love to be able to travel around and be able to go from city to city taking these pictures for women," Steinmann dreams.
When she's not in her studio, Steinmann is off teaching and lecturing about photography in various places. Her work has appeared all over the world and is displayed in many galleries.
Her work is also featured in her very own book, Pregnant Nudes. You can order a copy from her web site.
And if you're feeling game, contact Steinmann about setting up an appointment in the New York City area. A few people have done this as a couple's weekend out before the baby, others have gone for a day or two. Do give it some consideration!