The art form known as the “celebrity pregnant picture session” has gained a new champion in the shape of a new winner. In a street snapshot taken by Miles Diggs, a.k.a. Diggzy, a.k.a., the 20-something photographer hailed by Vogue as “fashion’s favourite paparazzi,” Rihanna and ASAP Rocky have announced the birth of their first child.
Rihanna appears in the photos, which were posted on Instagram and sold to a number of media outlets, including this one, in a long pink puffer coat with jewelled gold buttons over extra-long ripped jeans that are dripping in the street and held up by a gold and leather Chanel chain belt with a gold and leather Chanel logo. Only a jewel-encrusted costume jewellery cross on a long pearl necklace conceals her tummy, which is framed by her coat (which British Vogue described as classic Chanel, but Chanel refused to comment). Her hands are tucked into the pockets of her pants, and her hair is styled in loose curls in front of her face. Swifty Rocky is dressed casually in leather leggings, a Carhartt denim jacket, sweatshirt, and beanie (all from Carhartt).
Another shot shows them walking down a Harlem street, presumably under elevated subway lines, holding hands; another shows him kissing her on the top of her head, forming a love circle of two. There doesn’t seem to be anybody else in either of these places.
The framing is meticulously calibrated in terms of its pretended closeness, both off-duty and when communicating the message. So that you get the impression that you are getting a glimpse into a private moment, but everything has been meticulously scripted down to the old diamond signet ring that she wears on her finger, she is “caught.”
It might be said that the Rihanna portrait is the newest step in a photographic tradition that can be traced back to the Demi Moore pregnant cover of Vanity Fair magazine in 1991.
That photo, which depicted the actress holding her enlarged tummy while wearing nothing but a massive diamond ring, was so controversial when it was first issued that it was barred from sale at some shops despite the fact that it was shipped with a protective paper covering. The photograph sparked an image-making craze that continued through the likes of Cindy Crawford, Britney Spears, Ciara, and Gigi Hadid — however none of them could compare to Beyoncé’s 2017 pregnancy picture session in which she posed in lingerie in a bowl with her baby belly. It not only became the most liked picture on Instagram this year after receiving 11.1 million likes, but it also served as the inspiration for a whole series of high-concept maternity photo sessions that the actress released as a result of her pregnancy announcement.
Rihanna, on the other hand, has brought the tradition down to earth by tying it to two current events. There are two major developments in street-style photography: first, the progression of the genre from guerilla reporting to a new sort of image-making (the visual counterpart of casual Friday); and second, the rising use of social media as an exercise in image-building. A social media platform allows celebrities to engage with their fan base and community while also offering up peeks into their life that seem to be as intimate and raw as possible in the most polished and regulated manner imaginable.
The photographer’s signature is to highlight his subjects against black and white backgrounds, bringing them into sharp focus. Mr. Diggs told Vogue that part of his success comes from his desire to portray his subjects in their best light, and his willingness to refrain if he surprises them on an off day.
Rihanna chose a look and composition that appears to be a sly nod to fashion itself — specifically, Anna Wintour’s first Vogue cover, which featured Israeli model Michaela Bercu wearing old Guess jeans and a Christian Lacroix jacket with an elaborately jewelled cross on the front, her hair windblown and wavy, laughing on the street. Unlike the Moore tradition, which often involved being as naked as possible, or Beyoncé’s picture, which dipped into
At the time, it was seen as revolutionary: a means of removing the stuffiness from Vogue, demonstrating a more raw, high-low period in fashion, and heralding the arrival of a new power structure at the top of the fashion industry.
The fact that Rihanna is capable of seizing control of established images and reworking it to suit her own purposes is highlighted at this moment. Not to mention her ability to sell merchandise, both of which have contributed to her transformation from mere fashion star to wealthy businesswoman and beyond.
Already, according to the online shopping website Lovethesales, searches for “pink padded jackets” have surged 200 percent in the hours after the photographs’ publication; searches for “torn bluejeans” have climbed 175 percent; and searches for “pearl necklaces” have increased 80 percent. (The release of ASAP Rocky also resulted in an increase in demand for men’s sweater vests, leather pants, and Carhartt coats.)
It would seem that when it comes to maternity fashion, not to mention baby kits, we are just at the beginning of a new era.