Harper’s Bazzar ROYAL BABYWATCH: WEEK 31
Recent new mother Rebecca Newman has been following the course of the Duchess of Cambridge’s pregnancy with week by week advice on what to expect when you’re expecting.
As the Duchess of Cambridge approaches her due date, so Royal Babywatch draws to its close. As Kate prepares for the last push – forgive me – Royal Babywatch concludes with a round up of the last details which will help her ease stylishly and confidently into motherhood. We wish her, and her infant, every happiness.
The lissom Grace Vane Percy works transatlantically, specialising in the female nude; her granular black and white signature style is especially suited to the pregnant form (gracevanepercy.com).
Practical Parenting Jan 2012
“It was very liberating,” says Lea 32, proud mum of Louis, “I felt beyond special. When you’re pregnant you have a different sense of your body, you want to celebrate it and every curve. And the biggest is of course your bump!”
Nude Portrait studio sessions, £575 plus prints from Grace Vane Percy nude female portraiture gracevanepercy.com
Established London based photographer Grace Vane Percy has added a new string to her already impressive bow, with the launch of a new website www.gracevanepercy.com, nude female portraiture has become her niche market. Her signature atmospheric, flatteringly lit portraits are fast becoming the ultimate luxury must have for discerning women both in both London and New York.
Grace trained at Central St Martin’s, London, before going on to study fine art and the techniques of the Old Masters in Florence, she sees her work as directly influenced by classical art as well as the work of mid 19th Century English and 1930’s Czech photographers. Her work was internationally recognised, when, in 2004 Grace was invited to join the ‘Women In Photography’ Archive, Yale. She has been featured on Daily Candy London & NY, Fashionwire Daily NY and LBC Radio London, enabling a lot of the women find Grace. “Mostly my work is just about the celebration of the female form. It really is about beauty, sometimes I think it’s almost like a miniature therapy session! As women we all have so many hang-ups and issues with our bodies (I’m no exception) but I think people really do find it quite cathartic. Just making the most of your body and learning to look at it in a completely new way. They really do walk away from the whole thing far more empowered with a better and more ‘positive mental image’”
The concept of having your portrait photographed naked seems to be a relatively modern phenomenon. It’s recent rise in popularity and acceptability arguably stemming from our modern day obsession with physical perfection. Having been featured on the cult show “Sex and The City”, when actress Kim Cattrall’s character Samantha decided to immortalize herself in this genre, it was brought to the forefront of public awareness becoming far less taboo. Women no longer had to go about getting photographed on the quite, and those women that had always secretly wanted to, realised that they were not alone in the desire to preserve something of their youthful glory they slaved so hard to achieve and maintain.
Grace explains the trend ‘Often they’re wedding or engagement gifts, birthday anniversary or Christmas presents. Quite often it’s a big culmination, losing weight a certain birthday or a landmark. Pregnancy and post pregnancy are also recurrent themes. But then many women have simply seen my work whatever their initial reason, loved the classical look and thought “why not?” it’s something that most women have secretly always wanted to do it’s more a question of finding a photographer who they can feel comfortable with’
Vane Percy’s clients are predominantly professional women spending their money. Professions range from finance, law and banking, to PR and film producers. – But of course she can’t drop any names! “The age of my clients varies greatly. I often have new clients coming to me saying they don’t expect as good as the “models” on my website – not realising that the women in my portfolio and featured on my website are by no means all models or have perfect bodies.” Nikki calls her photographs “an awesome, natural expression of pure femininity”. Vanessa, too, was “euphoric – the shots were like a Pirelli calendar. It reinforced why I’d sacrificed so much and given up the one thing I love more than my husband – food.”
Having begun photographing Female Nudes in London she soon found through the spread of her reputation that there was demand for her portraits in New York, which, she admits has been “truly a fabulous experience”. Her work is now in high demand from an array of professional and elite women, with a desire to be captured in the nude maintaining a tasteful and dignified style.
“The women I portray are of all sizes, women are naturally so critical of themselves, it’s good to step back and see yourself in a whole new light. I do try to flatter of course,
it’s not meant to be stark reality, just more working with what’s there. I use light and shadow and positioning to make the most of what they’ve got.”
Those who are luck enough to book a session have high praise indeed. It seams the combination of Grace’s calm and reassuring personality and the beautiful classical images she produces are a winning one, as Taryn puts it: The hardest part of the entire process was to choose the photographs I wanted to print – they were all so stunning, it was impossible to decide!”
The session lasts about 2hrs and is strictly one on one, clients get a set of contacts sheets to keep, and as part of the service, in a post session meeting Grace guides her clients through the print selection process and an array of printing and framing options. Often a client has a specific spot in their home in mind, be it in the bedroom or over the fireplace.
In the words of Julia “An exquisite gift for someone you love… including yourself!”
Grace Vane Percy is currently showing at ‘Gentlemen’s Tonic’, Mayfair for more information please refer to www.gracevanepercy.com
Grace Vane Percy does not photograph men. “I think that women’s bodies are more beautiful and interesting,” says the woman who for the past three years has made a name for herself taking pictures of private clients in the nude. “About eighty percent of women look better naked, whereas only 20 percent of men do,” is her considered opinion.
At 25 years old Vane Percy is younger than all her clients to date but she takes it all in her professional stride the “imperfections” that accompany her subjects often are what “make then perfect and real”. Vane Percy’s customers are predominantly professional women, or women with professional boyfriends or husbands. But she finds that they have a range of motives for posing naked. “Often it’s a culmination of a life moment – weight loss, or even divorce. It can be a present for a boyfriend abroad or an engagement gift. I get a lot of first wedding anniversaries too – as it’s paper!” Vanessa, who is 34 and runs her own PR company has posed Vane Percy. “I lost four and a half stone between January and May last year and was looking for an original 40th birthday gift for my husband,” she explains. Niki, 30, was planning pregnancy when her husband suggested a Vane Percy Session. “He wanted to capture my figure before it all went south,” she says. “He sees it as an expression of pure femininity. I’d never let him photograph me, so we found Grace.”
Vane Percy is not the only photographer tapping into women’s interest in having photographs of themselves taken, naked or otherwise. So what are the reasons behind this?
Both Vanessa and Niki say they were nervous about the photo session. Vane Percy eases any apprehension by being bossy: “You bring out a camera and most people feel instantly self conscious. If you give someone direction, it distracts from the whole uncomfortable naked thing.”
A graduate from Central Saint Martin’s College in London who has been invited to join the Yale ‘Women in Photography’ archive, Vane Percy’s approach is resolutely artistic. She uses film, not digital, as “digital is broken up information, rather than a gradation of light, so the distinction between black and white does not have the same richness and subtlety. With digital if it’s black, it’s black: you can lose information in shadow. If you want to bring it out later, it’s just not there.”
Even if digital were better, Vane Percy is too romantic to reduce her art to a mere act of digital capture. “It’s magic as far as I’m concerned. I love the immortalising moment that can never happen again.”
Niki calls her photographs “an awesome natural expression of pure femininity”. Vanessa too was “euphoric – the shots were like a Pirelli calendar. It reinforced why I’d sacrificed so much and given up the one thing I love more than my husband – food!”
With their more typical British reserve returning to the fore, these women’s portraits are hung in their bedrooms, for their eyes only. According to Vane Percy, things are different with some of her US customers: “Americans tend to be far more relaxed about hanging them in their living spaces.” This she reinforces is not tacky: “my style is quite antique, so no one will walk in to your home and say ‘Oh my God! It’s a picture of you naked!’”
Vane Percy believes there are genuine benefits to her clients. “We women are so busy hating our bodies so much, there’s always some issue – an inch here an inch there. It sounds rather cheesy but accepting yourself is a very positive thing to do, and my pictures help women do that. It’s like a mini-therapy session. It’s also great to have a memory of how you once were. When your 80, sitting around your retirement home, you can say, ‘I was really hot when I was younger.’ And whip out the pictures to prove it.”