Looks can be deceiving. Just take the 1950s pinup for example. For some, the pinup is a classic, flirty sex-symbol. For others, the pinup is an illustration of female objectification. For photographer Ryan Armbrust, founder of Boudoir Louisville, the pinup is an example of female empowerment.
Boudoir Louisville, 414 Baxter Ave., is a photography studio that specializes in classic boudoir and retro pinup girl photography. Though his studio is located in Louisville, Armbrust also does photo shoots in such locations as Las Vegas, New Orleans, Cincinnati and Nashville.
“It kind of started as a hobby for my other photography business, Sniper Photo,” Armbrust said. “I just got sick of shooting corporate and commercial stuff, so I started shooting ’50s-style pinups and then I posted them on the Sniper Photo blog and generated a lot of inquiries. We’re almost at the three year mark (as a studio) and have shot about 500 girls.”
Among the 500 girls who have come to Boudoir Louisville, several are well beyond their 20s. Armbrust has had clients from age 18 to 64. While the women leave with a collection of glamorous photos, they also take away another added benefit: a huge boost in self-confidence.
“When you get close to 40, things aren’t always in the same place they were when you were younger,” said Bella White, who had photos taken at Boudoir Louisville when she was 37. “This makes you remember how beautiful you are. It was very empowering and a huge self-esteem booster.”
With the help of Armbrust’s assistant, Brittany Murphy, women are transformed into 1950s pinup models with bright red lipstick, false eyelashes and cat-eye makeup. For several of the women, the final reveal in front of the mirror is both surprising and exhilarating.
“(Brittany’s) amazing,” said Mary Queen, who had her photos taken when she was 43. “She’s a real artist. Afterwards I didn’t take my makeup off. My own mother didn’t recognize me when I met her at Panera.”
Like Queen and White, several women have come to Boudoir Louisville to celebrate the coming of their 40th birthday or to give their husbands a special anniversary gift. Others come to shoot photos as a bridal gift to their future husband or as a way to celebrate a divorce or throw a bachelorette party.
Whether the women are young, old, thin, out-of-shape or size zero models, they all seem to have one thing in common. Each of the women walk into the studio with some insecurity that they’re embarrassed about and want to hide. However, after the women leave Boudoir Louisville, they all seem to walk away loving their bodies and themselves more than before.
“Once we start shooting, every girl feels the need to tell me their problem areas,” Armbrust said. “They say, ‘I have stretch marks or baby belly or whatever.’ We’ll pop off a couple dozen pics, and I’ll show them there’s no stretch marks, no baby belly, and then they just relax.”
Murphy explained that one goal of Boudoir Louisville is to help women become confident in their skin and learn to love their body as it is.
“We’ve worked with so many different body types that you learn how to shoot to accentuate,” Murphy said. “We don’t ever ask them what they don’t like about their bodies; we ask them what they do like and we emphasize that. All women are self-conscious about something. But the girls always leave so happy. Our goal is always to make them like one more thing about their body that they didn’t when they came in.”
From what women have been saying, it appears that Boudoir Louisville is helping them do just that. With a fun, energetic atmosphere at the studio, and the easy-going, friendly demeanors of Armbrust and Murphy, women are coming into their own and becoming happier with their self-image at every age.
Another surprising benefit of the photo shoot is the built-in workout that comes with the poses. As Armbrust described, “Some of the poses are worse than P90X. Your feet are in the air for 20 seconds.” With pinup photography, women do every kind of pose from blowing kisses to sticking their legs straight in the air at a 90-degree angle.
It’s the art of posing that Armbrust is teaching women, not just in his studio but also in his book, “Shoot Sexy: Pinup Photography in the Digital Age,” slated to come out in January of 2012.
As for other projects, Boudoir Louisville has helped raise funds for cancer research by printing a pinup calendar to benefit the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. Funding cancer research is Armbrust’s passion, especially since he survived stage four Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Boudoir Louisville will also donate a portion of proceeds from its October photo shoots to breast cancer research.
Looks can be deceiving, but after looking deeper into the enterprise of Boudoir Louisville, it’s becoming clear that pinup and boudoir photography is actually doing a lot of good for women’s self-esteem and society in general.
“I never felt like I was very photogenic,” said Jazz Fodale, owner of Images Salon. “The confidence boost came when the pictures came back. I would recommend this to any woman. It’s a gift you can give yourself.”
For information on Boudoir Louisville, visit www.boudoirlouisville.com or download the “Bombshell” app on iTunes.
photos courtesy of Ryan Armbrust
About the Author (Author Profile)
Ashley spends half her time writing stories at The Voice-Tribune office and half her time out on the town conducting interviews, while occasionally dressing in wild outfits to fully immerse herself in the experience (aka Princess Leia at Comic Con). Ashley is a huge UofL fan and loves the Yankees and the Boston Celtics (she is fully aware of the irony). She hopes to one day outshine Erin Andrews on ESPN and enjoys running, Bardstown Road/Fourth Street, Breaking Bad and reality TV (she’s not ashamed to admit that).