The art form known as the “celebrity maternity photo shoot” has a new winning entry. Rihanna and ASAP Rocky have announced their first child with the release of a street photo of Miles Diggs, aka Diggzy, aka the 20-year-old photographer named by Vogue as “fashion’s favorite paparazzi”.
The series of photos, posted to Instagram and sold to various media outlets, shows Rihanna in a long pink puffer coat with jeweled gold buttons over extra-long ripped jeans bulging in the street and held by a gold and leather Chanel chain belt. Her abdomen, framed by the jacket (which was identified by British Vogue as vintage Chanel, although Chanel declined to comment) and which closes with a single button at the sternum, is covered only by a jewel-encrusted costume jewelery cross on a long pearl necklace . Her hands are tucked into the pockets of her jeans, her hair in loose waves. ASAP Rocky wears leather pants, a Carhartt denim jacket, a hooded varsity sweater and a black beanie.
In one photo, they are strolling down a Harlem street, seemingly under elevated subway tracks, holding hands; in another he kisses her on the crown of the head, creating a loving circle of two. There doesn’t seem to be anyone else around in either one.
(There’s what looks like just a little snow on their hair, suggesting the photos were taken before the weekend’s blizzard and freezing temperatures and released on a scheduled schedule.)
The framing is carefully calculated in its pretended intimacy, both off duty and on message. “Captive” so you feel like you’re getting a peek into a private moment, but in a way that’s completely choreographed down to the vintage diamond signet ring on her finger.
In this, the Rihanna snap is the latest in a photographic tradition that can be traced back to the Demi Moore maternity cover on Vanity Fair in 1991.
That portrait, featuring the actress cradling her bloated belly, naked except for a giant diamond ring, was so outrageous when released that it was banned from certain stores, despite being sent in with a paper sleeve. The photo started an image-making trend that stretched to Cindy Crawford, Britney Spears, Ciara, and Gigi Hadid — though they were all topped off by Beyoncé’s 2017 pregnant-while-wearing-lingerie-in-a-arbor baby- bump photo shoot. That snap set a new standard for managing the public maternity reveal, becoming not only Instagram’s most liked photo of the year when it reached 11.1 million likes, but also the first of a slew of high-concept maternity photo shoots taken by the star fell .
Now, Rihanna has brought the tradition back to earth and linked it with two contemporary phenomena. First, the evolution of street photography from guerrilla reporting to a new kind of fashion imaging (the visual equivalent of casual Friday); and second, the increasing use of social media as an exercise in imaging. It’s a way for celebrities to interact with their fan base and community, providing seemingly personal and unvarnished glimpses into their lives in the most polished and controlled way possible.
Diggs, whose signature highlights his subjects against a black-and-white background so they come into focus, told Vogue that part of his success was his desire to portray his subjects in their best light, and his willingness to forgo if he surprises them on an off day.
Unlike the Moore tradition, which often involved being as naked as possible, or the photo of Beyoncé, which delved into art history, Rihanna opted for a look and composition that seems to be a sly nod to fashion itself — notably Anna Wintour’s first Vogue cover, in 1988, in which Israeli model Michaela Bercu wore old Guess jeans and a Christian Lacroix jacket with an elaborately decorated cross on the front, her hair in the wind and wavy, laughing in the street .
At the time, it was considered revolutionary: a way to take the stuffiness out of Vogue, showcase a rawer, high-low era in fashion, and herald the arrival of a new power at the top.
At this point, it underscores Rihanna’s ability to take property from the establishment and overhaul it for her own purposes. Not to mention her ability to move products, both of which helped transform her from mere fashion icon to billionaire entrepreneur.
According to the online shopping site Lovethesales, searches for “pink quilted jackets” already increased 200 percent in the hours after the photos were posted; for “ripped jeans,” 175 percent; and for ‘strings of pearls’ 80 percent. (ASAP Rocky also sparked a spike in men’s sweater vests, leather pants, and Carhartt jackets.)
All of this suggests that when it comes to maternity style — not to mention baby kits — this may just be the beginning.