Happy Thanksgiving! To keep you busy while you recover from turkey coma, we’re republishing some of our favorite stories from 2013. Enjoy.–Eds
Pregnant couples sleep differently. Not only is a woman instructed not to sleep on her back, she’s forced to negotiate aching, snoring, indigestion, gratuitous breasts, and a giant belly. And as a man in bed, you’re constantly aware of that belly–so you don’t fight for covers as much, and you’re always careful when you flip. You sleep so much worse and more clumsily, but also so much more tenderly than ever before.
It’s a feeling captured by Jana Romanova’s photo series Waiting, in which she stayed overnight with young pregnant couples across Russia, just to sneak in their bedrooms around dawn. Perched on a ladder, she photographed them sleeping–snug, vulnerable, and so often clutching at that life growing inside their bellies. The topic might not be the most obvious candidate for a portrait series, but it was inspired by Romanova’s time spent with her own pregnant friends.
“Once I was helping my friends, who were expecting parents, make some repairs in their house, and there was a ladder in the middle of the room right near the bed,” Romanova tells Co.Design. “In the morning I took some images of them sleeping just for my memory, and then decided that I can make a whole project like this.”
As it happens, almost every apartment in St. Petersburg and Moscow has home ladders, Romanova tells us, which made it technically simple for her to stage the overhead view. She’d just set up the ladder, creep into the room around dawn, and photograph the scene as quietly as possible over the course of 10 or more minutes.
“Of course sometimes people woke up, but as soon as I photographed always really early in the morning on weekends, people wanted to sleep more than anything else, and it was not a big problem,” Romanova explains. “And even if they didn’t fall asleep later–it was their decision on what to do, whether to change a pose or not.”
Indeed, in some images, you can almost tell that people may be more pretending to be asleep than actually asleep. But these images are just as compelling, I believe, because there’s a tacit acknowledgement from the subject that we’re being let in as viewers at a moment worth capturing–a place and time where sleeping with one’s belly hanging out is par for the course, when eros swells to storage.
“I thought that if I tried to photograph expecting people sleeping, I would understand something new about their relationships,” Romanova writes. “But in the end, I was just fascinated by the trust of people who let me stay at their apartment and allowed to photograph in such an intimate moment.”