Alexa Garbarino, Photographer of “Ripe: The Essence of the Pregnant Nude”

March 21, 2011

in Guest Bloggers,Personal Experiences, Stories and Insights

“Like a lot of women in this series, including myself, I think Mary and Diane wanted to get as much out of their pregnancy as they could. Having battled infertility for so many months and then years, posing for the portrait was like a badge of honor — and I was thrilled to document their accomplishment.”

We are thrilled to introduce you to a photographer and author Alexa Garbarino, Photographer of Ripe: The Essence of the Pregnant Nude.  Alexa is a very accomplished professional photographer who has spent the last 10 or so years creating a very exciting body of work promoting the beautiful nature of the naked and very pregnant female form.

NOTE: We really debated posting this blog entry because of the sensitive nature of women who are trying to conceive and seeing another who is pregnant. If these images are upsetting to you, we apologize, but we felt it important to post because Alexa conceived and created this book when she was going through infertility treatments herself. This was her way of dealing with the very emotional journey that she did. And also, many of the women that she photographed had also had difficulty conceiving.

I invite you to see through Alexa’s eyes these gorgeous images – many of which are posed in very famous areas of the country like Times Square, the Brooklyn Bridge, Lincoln Memorial, among others. Here is Alexa’s response to questions about her book:

Can you a bit talk about what your journey to motherhood was like?

I am one of 6 kids, so I always figured I would probably be as fertile as my mother. I never once neglected to use birth control before I was married, and as it turned out, I never had to – ever. Without fertility treatment, I would have never gotten pregnant.

I didn’t marry until I was 37, and while my husband and I tried to get pregnant right away, we finally sought help after almost two years without a pregnancy. The first doctor we saw was a disaster. If there is one thing I learned from that experience, it’s if you feel the least bit uncertain or anxious about your doctor, get the hell out. We wasted a year and a half with a young Doogie Hauser-like doctor who had a Harvard Medical degree, but ran his practice like a cattle call. The giant waiting room was lined with a bank of couches filled with sad, anxious women, and I soon learned that two hours was the requisite waiting period for every appointment. When I finally did get to see the doctor, it was as if I had to be reintroduced to him every visit. He never seemed to know who I was or what test he had just sent me to get the week before. It got to the point where my whole body tightened up the moment I walked into his office. With all that stress, I finally realized that there was no way I would get pregnant under his “care.” I called it quits after three unsuccessful IUI’s and one in vitro fertilization.

We immediately sought the help of another doctor a friend recommended. I’ll never forget walking into his office and my husband saying, “Well … this is refreshing”. There were only two arm chairs and a settee in the room, all of them empty, and we were lead into the consultation room minutes after our arrival. That’s how it went for the next three months until I got pregnant after my first IUI…

It seems as if you have taken what was a very difficult and personal journey and made something beautiful from it. How much do you think your experience influenced your photography and the creation of this book?

Thinking back on the timeline, it turns out that I made the decision to start my series on pregnant nudes while we were trying to get pregnant, but before we had actually started fertility treatments. While chatting with the models during the photo sessions I gleaned lots of information about their pregnancy experiences, both good and bad. I also came to learn about the models that struggled with infertility. Many of those women said that at the time they were going through fertility treatments, they found it really difficult to be around pregnant women — it was too emotionally painful for them. I think I had the exact opposite reaction.

I was really anxious to seek out pregnant women. I don’t know if it was because my photographer instincts to “get the shot” just kicked in, or if I was secretly hoping that some pregnancy mojo might rub off on me, but I sought out and photographed a lot of pregnant women during that period and was determined to include my own portrait in the series.

What I see is the “ripe” naked female body against absolutely stunning backdrops – from Times Square, to the Golden Gate Bridge to even the Chinese Theatre in L.A. How did you create these photographs without being arrested for public nudity?? {laugh}

I wish I had been arrested… I could have used the publicity! But really, the public shoots are very fast. I have the framing and positioning down before I ask the model to throw off her coat and it takes me about 15 seconds to shoot a 12 frame roll.

For most of the public location shots like the Golden Gate Bridge or Grauman’s Chinese Theatre we usually arrive at the location before dawn and wait for the light to come up, so hopefully not a lot of people are around. The one place where that doesn’t hold true is New York City… someone is ALWAYS around — club kids, early morning joggers, cyclists… I think we actually foiled some would- be robbers at the shoot in Theatre Alley. Tiffany and her husband picked us up at our apartment that morning when it was still dark, and we drove to the site. As soon as we all piled out of their car, we saw two men up the street who were clearly trying to break into a back door. We all just froze for a few seconds and stared at each other before they took off running. (That was also one of the few times I asked the model to keep her shoes on after seeing a bunch of rats scurry across the alley.)

Many of the women featured in the book – like Mary (Vallejo, CA) and Diane (Manhattan) – also went through the struggle of infertility and talk about it in this book. What do you think it was like for them to pose for this book and share the intimate details of their story?

Many more women in the book fought infertility than wrote about it, so I was grateful that Mary and Diane did focus on it. Mary tried to get pregnant for eight years and Diane for six. Every woman has a story to tell, and I think it’s really important that those stories are shared.

Mary writes:

“…I closed my eyes on the way home and visualized David’s sperm meeting up with my egg. I felt optimistic, like I had every month for the last nine years. About a week later I felt cramps. I was disappointed but tried not to think about it. And then nothing happened. No more cramps, no period. I went in for a pregnancy test. I called to get the results that afternoon. I was so nervous. My heart was racing and my stomach was clenched. The nurse came on the line with excitement and told me I was pregnant.

I don’t know when exactly it hit me, but soon after I thought about how obstinate we had been for so many years. I wondered what we were thinking to not look for help sooner. I mentally kicked myself for putting it off for so long. Then August was born and in those first few hours I held and kissed him, stared at his sweet little puffy face, and slept with him tucked between my arm and chest. And a new realization came over me, that everything happened exactly as it should have.”

Every time I read Mary’s statement, I get teary — I know exactly what she went through — I also felt that everything happened exactly as it should have. And in the end, the weight of the heartache is replaced by the weight of a precious baby against your chest.

Like a lot of women in this series, including myself, I think Mary and Diane wanted to get as much out of their pregnancy as they could. Having battled infertility for so many months and then years, posing for the portrait was like a badge of honor — and I was thrilled to document their accomplishment.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Todd October 8, 2013 at 10:47 am

I bought a copy of Ripe three years ago after I searched for a book of pregnant nudes for a really long time.My very favorite photo in the entire book would have to be Alexa’s.To me,the absence of her photo would have created a great void in the book! Why her photo alone makes the book worth buying!!! She truly has one of the most amazingly beautiful pregnant bellies I’ve ever seen!!!!! I can just gaze upon it and be filled with sheer joy and happiness!!! Thank you Alexa for sharing such a beautiful and personal part of yourself with all of us! Your generosity has made our lives so much fuller and richer and that makes me want to say this:ALEXA, YOU ROCK!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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