Touching, Unguarded Portraits of Sleeping Parents-to-Be

The Photo Blog
Sept. 16 2013 12:03 PM

Touching, Unguarded Portraits of Sleeping Parents-to-Be

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Jana Romanova

A few years ago, Russian photographer Jana Romanova's social life took a turn. All of a sudden, it seemed, all of her friends had become pregnant.

Just as quickly, all their conversations turned to children: things they needed to buy, changes they needed to make to their homes, and the daily difficulties of pregnancy. "It was a challenge for me to get used to it," Romanova said via email. "I always try to solve my problems with photography, so I decided to make a project about it."

She started her series, "Waiting," by photographing her friends sleeping early in the morning in their bedrooms—a time, as she wrote on her website, "when people don't really care about their appearance and one can see their attitude to each other and to this life that is growing inside their family."

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Jana Romanova

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Jana Romanova

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Jana Romanova

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Romanova didn't want the couples to pose, so she had to figure out ways of getting the photos while the couples were still asleep. "When it was possible I stayed with the couple at their apartment at night to make a picture at around 5-6 a.m., mostly on weekends, when people want to sleep and don't really need to wake up for work," Romanova said. "When it was not possible, I tried to come around 5 a.m., waited in the kitchen while they were asleep, and then took the picture."

Eventually, Romanova wanted to expand the scope of her project, so she started looking for more subjects online. She wrote hundreds of emails to pregnant women asking if they would like to be included in the project. It took her two years to find the 40 couples for the project—one for each week of pregnancy. 

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Jana Romanova

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Jana Romanova

At one point, Romanova realized that almost all the couples that agreed to take part in the project were between 20 and 30 years old, which gave the project added meaning in her eyes. "It means that they belong to the last generation that was born before the fall of the Soviet Union, and their children will know about it only from history books. So suddenly the whole project became not only a catalog of people sleeping in different poses, but also a portrait of a generation of young families in big cities in modern Russia," she said.

Besides the bird’s-eye angle, which she achieved by standing on a ladder, the portraits show remarkable diversity. "The strangest thing about this project is that I was sure I would have a lot of portraits of people sleeping the same way in the same poses, but there were no similar couples at all, and I find it really amazing. And nobody has similar bed sheets, which also seems almost impossible," Romanova said.         

Romanova’s work, which is represented by Anzenberger Agency, is now on view at Encontros da Imagem in Braga, Portugal. An exhibition of the photos in "Waiting" is on view at Mosteiro de Tibães.

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Jana Romanova

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Jana Romanova

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Jana Romanova

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Jana Romanova

Jordan G. Teicher writes about photography for Slates Behold blog. Follow him on Twitter.