We are so excited to spotlight, Andreea Burcia-Ballen from Andreea B. Ballen Photography, a boudoir photographer based in Brooklyn, New York. In celebration of Mother's Day, we thought it would be a great time to highlight the beauty behind boudoir maternity photos. As new mothers-to-be embark on a new journey capturing these moments behind the lens has been something that Andreea has become a natural at. A mother herself and a doula follow along on our interview with Andreea.
ALLY: Tell us about yourself, how long have you been a photographer?
Andreea: I'm a Brooklyn-based New Yorker, mom to two magical tweens, wife to a wonderful Argentinian man (himself an artist, photographer, crazy good cook). I am a light and beauty seeker, modern-day gypsy with sophisticated tastes, world traveler, crazy in love with my family, obsessed with empowering women to see the beauty and power in themselves.
I'm known as the photographer who puts clients at ease while creating vibrant, beautiful portraits that are full of real emotion, joy and light. My photo sessions are laid back, fun and effortless - so clients can enjoy themselves while I guide them to photographs that capture their most stunning, beautiful selves.
Having been initially terrified of the camera as a child because of strangers taking my photo without permission, all the while loving myself (only) in photos that my dad took of me (where I could SEE myself beautiful), I vowed to always meet my subjects how my dad's lens met me: with love and with understanding of one's vulnerability in front of the camera; with a willingness to see one's beauty originating with their joy radiating from within. Shaped by shadows and by real emotion. Unique, and uniquely beautiful.
Always photographing but never seeing myself as a 'real' photographer, it all finally clicked that photography had always been my true calling when upon leaving the corporate advertising world to empower other mothers in their birth journey by (briefly) becoming a doula (birth coach). In this role, I was given a real opportunity to capture the beauty and magic (and strength and fierceness!) of my doula clients through maternity photographs. Not only did they LOVE their photos and rave about it to their friends who also hired me just to photograph them, I received real recognition by having a maternity photo (along with a portrait of my daughter) chosen to be displayed at one day international photography show the Louvre in Paris! Owning my passion for photography as my gift, I took on photography and photographing women full time, and have not looked back.
Ally: What interested you in boudoir maternity photos?
Andreea: As a mom and doula, I am in awe of the beauty and power of a woman at any stage of her life - and especially so as a women's body undergoes metamorphosis in the process of creating new life. Pregnancy is a time that is sensual, where we are pushed and pulled and stretched to the limit of our love, the limit of our body making new limits, a sight to behold. It is a stunningly beautiful time - but it is also a time when simultaneously, many women unfortunately often feel 'less than': less than beautiful, less than desirable, less than sexy, less than themselves. It can indeed be a time when some women can and do forget their sense of self completely - and really want it back.
There is too the prevalent, idealized idea of the pregnant woman who just 'glows' - and so she must FEEL glowy, others assume - which can be alienating to the woman who is told she is beautiful but who cannot see or feel that about herself. I felt this personally when pregnant, and many of my clients, doula then photography, felt the same.
And so, while I am passionate about empowering all women through my photography and boudoir photography, empowering women during a time that they feel especially vulnerable such as pregnancy is just that much more special and important. And when women pamper themselves during our maternity boudoir portrait session, and then when they really SEE how I see them through my lens: stunning and sexy and so very powerful - there is nothing more gloriously rewarding to me than to be told 'I got my sexy back' or 'I got my sense of self back' - and it's because of my photos of them did that for them!
Ally: What are some of the tips that you use to get women to feel comfortable in their own skin during a photoshoot?
Andreea: Build trust and true rapport, first and foremost. Allow me to be your coach and cheerleader. And have so much fun, you forget the camera is there at all! Truly, I am humbled at the trust that is given to be whenever someone chooses to photograph with me.
Knowing my client's intention, likes and dislikes, as well as their strengths but also their vulnerabilities, makes for a much better experience for them and in the end for a much more stunning photograph. When we start photographing, clients experience me as a very easy going and down to earth person. Additionally, the easy visualizations or breath work I take them through gets them to look the way they want to look - without them ever feeling on the spot or pressured to look a certain way. But no, matter what, I will always encourage them, I will always let them know they are doing great. I want ever woman in front of my camera to FEEL great!
Ally: Do most women choose to wear heels during their boudoir photo shoot and can you see an instant confidence boost behind the lens?
Andreea: Absolutely! A great heel is often as important (if not more) to how sexy or powerful a woman feels as is a stunning bra or booty enhancing brief or gorgeous lingerie set. Sometimes the sexy heels are ALL she chooses to wear in her boudoir or maternity boudoir photos - and it makes her more fierce and powerful and confident than her wearing anything else at all (or nothing else at all.)
Ally: With Mother's Day around the corner, what's the best advice that you could give a mom-to-be based on your experience.
Andreea: Brace yourself for the unexpected. Loosen up your expectations. Give up the idea of privacy - or sleep! Go with the flow. Be kind and gentle to yourself and surround yourself with those who support the kind of mom YOU want to be. Lean on the support and wisdom of collective motherhood, but in the end, always trust your OWN intuition. Make time for dates with your partner - it's NOW more important than ever. And through it all, take lots of photos and don't skimp out on being IN the photo!
If you're a Mom-to-be:
Remember to nourish your body with wholesome foods and feed your mind with peace, love and intention for the being you are growing inside of you. Sing to your baby, and your baby will be soothed to hear you sing when s/he arrives! Remember to move and stretch (hello, yoga!) and dance - not just to ease pregnancy pains, but also to get your body ready for labor and make recovery that much easier. Know that your body is made for birth, and have no fear. Take a childbirth education course to become more confident, and have a birth team who is on your side to support you in the kind of birth you want. Just know that when the time for birth actually comes, you will need to let go of the idea of the birth you want in favor of the birth you might actually need. Consider a midwife and don't skimp on the doula even if you end up choosing a traditional OBGYN for your delivery!
Enjoy the changes of you body, but if you don't, don't fret: your pregnant days will soon be gone and you will have a gorgeous baby to prove it! That said, you will want to remember yourself pregnant even if you right now think you don't, so don't forget to take plenty of photos to immortalize this time. It is a regret I share with many mothers: not having taken more photos of myself while I was pregnant!
If you're a new mom:
You will be devastatingly happy to remember all the little moments when your child gets bigger (and trust me, it all goes by SO FAST, and your memory of it will not be as sharp as you think it will), so make sure to document it all - record the videos, take the pictures. The baby giggles, the temper tantrums, the tooth that wiggles. No matter how much you think you don't like yourself right now or think you are not 'picture worthy,' your child will ADORE seeing their hero, their goddess, their whole world, smiling along side them when holding on to that photograph. They will light up like nothing else, I promise - and not only when they are babies. And looking back, you will adore seeing yourself alongside them too! Because you, mom, were there through it all. And you deserve to be celebrated and remembered for all you are and do, and did. Happy Mother's Day, for all of the rest of your years to come!