It was a Valentine’s Day surprise: The Duke and Duchess of Sussex announced they were expecting their second child with a black and white portrait. In it, they lay together on their lawn, a tree’s sprawling branches behind them, Meghan’s head on Prince Harry’s lap. Her hand rests on her bump, which is covered in a custom-made Carolina Herrera dress that designer Wes Gordon made for her first pregnancy. “We can confirm that Archie is going to be a big brother. The Duke and Duchess of Sussex are overjoyed to be expecting their second child,” a spokesperson for the couple said.
The photographer? Misan Harriman. He’s a long time friend of the couple. In fact, when Harriman posted the picture to his own Instagram, he did so with a thoughtful, personal caption: “Meg, I was there at your wedding to witness this love story begin, and my friend, I am honoured to capture it grow,” he wrote. “Congratulations to The Duke and Duchess of Sussex on this joyous news!” But to chalk up the choice simply to friendship is a disservice to both Harriman and the couple.
Nigerian-born Harriman made history in September as the first Black male photographer to shoot the cover of British Vogue. The theme was activism, an apropos subject considering his past work: that summer, he captured London’s Black Lives Matter protests.
It’s significant that they picked such an artist for the pregnancy announcement—an event that caused a media frenzy and trended globally within minutes. In addition to sharing their news, they also elevated the profile of Harriman and therefore his powerful civil-rights camera work.
In June, Vogue reported how Harry and Meghan planned to make racial justice one of their signature causes. When giving a high school graduation speech for her alma-mater, Immaculate Heart, the Duchess named victims of police brutality and also shared her experiences during the 1992 Los Angeles riots. That summer, the couple spent time talking to community leaders and grassroot advocates to figure out how they could be most impactful. (One of those figures? Father Greg Boyle, founder of Homeboy Industries.) Then, at the end of 2020, they announced their charitable arm, Archewell, would be partnering with five other non-profits. One of them is The Loveland Foundation, which provides mental health resources to Black women and girls.
Harriman told British Vogue that his portrayal of the two was ripe with symbolism: “With the tree of life behind them and the garden representing fertility, life and moving forward, they didn’t need any direction, because they are, and always have been, waltzing through life together as absolute soulmates,” he said.
It’s hard not to read that explanation and feel moved. In November, the Duchess of Sussex wrote a powerful op-ed for The New York Times where she revealed she’d suffered a miscarriage. “Losing a child means carrying an almost unbearable grief, experienced by many but talked about by few,” the Duchess wrote. So Harriman’s framing of fertility “moving forward,” no doubt, derives from the couple’s emergence from that period of darkness.
Then there’s the choice of their announcement’s timing: Valentine’s Day. Obviously, yes, it’s a day meant to celebrate love. But it goes beyond that: 37 years ago, on February 14, 1984, Prince Charles and Princess Diana announced that they were expecting a second child, two years after the birth of their first.
In mythology, the “tree of life” represents both fertility and the connection between heaven and earth. In this case, it seems the picture embodies it all.
Originally published on Vogue.com