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Meet Ruthie Skillman

Today we’d like to introduce you to Ruthie Skillman.

Ruthie, we appreciate you taking the time to share your story with us today. Where does your story begin?
I got into photography when I saw my friends posting photos they’d taken on a “big camera.” I was inspired by what could be created with a digital camera. I received a starter camera for Christmas and practiced what I was learning from YouTube on family and friends. Eventually, people started hiring me to take birthday pics, wedding pics, etc. I was trying to conceive my first child at the time, so newborn photography felt like a good fit.

I was good with babies, and even though I loved creating priceless memories for new parents, the more I learned about photography, the more excited I was by the fundamentals of shadow and light; particularly by the shadows that give boudoir an intimate vibe. I was in the middle of a painful divorce, and my self-esteem was in the toilet. Professionally, I was still waffling about the idea of switching from babies to boudoir. I left my marriage, closed my newborn photography studio, and took six months to get myself and my two boys adjusted to a new normal.

Boudoir is about self-love and vulnerability. It’s about letting go of shame, taking risks, and growing in confidence as we take the baby step of courage. It’s about your voice being heard as it is, and not caring about what society says it should be. Yes, it’s hot and your partner will LOVE it. But I want my clients to walk away with more than sexy photos. It is truly a transformative experience to take a risk and be vulnerable. I started listening to my own voice.

So I did the thing. I leaped into boudoir photography; but more importantly, I am on a journey of self-love and acceptance; boudoir is just one outlet that allows me to practice believing in my own worth after 44 years of self-doubt. I’m now fully self-employed as a boudoir photographer. I absolutely love my job.

We all face challenges, but looking back would you describe it as a relatively smooth road?
Mental health and the effects of trauma have been my biggest obstacle. I realized I had lost myself after so many years of being silenced by my parents, the church, and in my unhealthy marriage. When I started speaking up, I lost all of them. My parents, my in-laws, my older sister (and therefore my niece/nephew), all of them think I’m a sinner for divorcing my ex-husband. My dad testified for my ex-husband in court, and they hang out and vacation regularly with my ex-husband and his girlfriend.

Life got a LOT harder logistically without family, but their absence gave me the space to grow. I don’t think you can ever truly grow if you hide part of yourself to make others feel comfortable. (Friends have since become family.) Working full-time and having 90% custody was hard enough, but when the Pandemic hit, I somehow also became a SAHM and a 1st/2nd-grade teacher and a photographer, and again, no family to help ease the extra burden brought to us by COVID-19. I remember money being tight every month in the beginning; my power was turned off once.

It was a hot and muggy summer, so we had to stay in a hotel. I was ashamed and discouraged. Self-doubt and limiting thoughts crept in. But there was a magazine on the hotel room desk. Inside was an image that I took. Even though losing power had now caused us to sleep in a hotel, I knew I was on the right path.

Alright, so let’s switch gears a bit and talk business. What should we know about your work?
When people ask me what kind of photography I do for a living, I usually give them a short answer: “I photograph women in their underwear.” If they aren’t blushing, I go on to explain that I help women cast aside fear, shame, and self-hatred by doing the thing they’ve been shamed for since they were little girls: Expressing their womanhood and sexuality.

Without it having a stigma attached. Whether it’s simply loving and accepting their own body, to feel–KNOWING that they are worthy and attractive just as they are. Being able to let go and be proud of their beauty, unashamed and unbound. It’s about so much more than nudity. And that is why it is so empowering.

I love meeting women who are going through or have been through hell. We are stronger than we know. I love that I get to be a part of that story.

What’s next?
I have an amazing assistant, Syd, who is training to be an associate photographer. Eventually, she will photograph in the Hampden, Baltimore studio while I open a location in Annapolis.

Contact Info:

Image Credits
Syd Gettier, Alicia Wiley Photography, April Davidson, and Bly Photography

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