Evgenia Ribinik's Brooklyn Boudoir

Category: POV Podcast

Author: Aria Vega

Evgenia Ribinik is a portrait photographer whose initial specialty was weddings — until one especially bold bride asked Evgenia to shoot her in her lingerie. Now, boudoir is her signature style, and her portfolio includes individuals, couples, and even maternity shoots.

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Podcast Transcript:

Aria Vega [00:00:00] This podcast contains explicit content. Listener's discretion is advised. POV by Lustery explores culture, politics and creativity in the sex industry, one point of view at a time. I'm your host, Aria Vega.

Aria Vega [00:00:16] Evgenia Ribinik is a boudoir photographer based in Brooklyn, New York. From the first time she picked up a camera, Evgenia has always been particularly inspired by taking portraits.

Evgenia Ribinik [00:00:28] I started with portraiture photography, and then when I found the boudoir niche, I was so excited and I only did boudoir. And now when I got my second studio — the newer studio, I don't have two studios — the newer studio, it actually gave me more space to shoot with, so I'm like, Why don't I try to do some portraits now? Because I do have the extra space and I wanted the portraits to be in Vogue style. So nothing, you know, not head shots, not overly posed, but raw and very different. So I started doing it more and more, but pretty much capturing the person in that moment is still for both things, for boudoir and for portraiture, is the most ... It just interests me so much, capturing that moment and you will never come back to that moment again, and then that moment this is how you looked, or this is where you looked, and stuff like that. So it's definitely something that I'm getting, I'm doing more and more of and I kind of like that balance of doing some maternity pictures, [and] I actually do a couple sessions as well. But at the end of the day, they're all portraits. It just depends on what background you use and how much clothes you want to have on.

Aria Vega [00:01:39] It sounds like you're interested in the storytelling aspect of it, and the way that you can sort of excavate someone's story without them having to say a word, because of these other ways they communicate.

Evgenia Ribinik [00:01:52] That's very, very well said, Aria.

Aria Vega [00:01:54] Okay, good!

Evgenia Ribinik [00:01:55] And I always tell my clients, We're going to tell the story of you in my space. And when you open that album, or you open that box with pictures, you kind of want to go through them and understand the story.

Aria Vega [00:02:06] And so how do you like working with couples?Do you find it is it easier or harder than than shooting with one person?

Evgenia Ribinik [00:02:12] It's more challenging. I feel like shooting one-on-one is very intimate, in a good sense of a way. It's just me getting to know the person and seeing— because all those clients, they come to me. I haven't met them before, it's the very first time. And for me I look at them, and I find their amazing angles, and we kinda tell a story. It's very intimate. It's honestly very easy for me, to the point that maybe I'm not doing something right, but it's so easy for me to just work with individual people. With the couples, it's a little more interesting, it's much more fun for sure, because it's like a third wheel that's like coming around you with the camera. It's very funny in the beginning, and people laugh a lot and it makes the experience even much more interesting. But again, capturing that connection and capturing the chemistry and, you know, just like two people in a different environment is very interesting for me as well, and it's such a cool couple's experience as well.

Aria Vega [00:03:11] You know, I'm thinking about you and your husband now, and the way that you collaborate on a photo shoot in a different way. How did the two of you meet?

Evgenia Ribinik [00:03:21] At a photo shoot.

Aria Vega [00:03:23] Oh, at a photo shoot, okay!

[00:03:24] But I was not taking pictures, I was a model there. And model is a very strong word, it was just my friend put together this... She's a photographer so she was gathering a couple of photographers, and she needed some objects or models to take pictures of. And it was in a different setting, it was in the winter, in the mountains, on the snow, the coldest day ever. And my husband just decided to attend that photo shoot randomly, out of all the photo shows that she ever put together, that was the only one, and that was the only one I came to, and the rest is history, with two kids and two businesses later. But yeah, that's how we met! And actually there's nothing, I haven't found anything sexier than being taken pictures of. I think that was the initial connection when him and I met and he was taking pictures. And he did that amazing job, but I was like, Oh my God, this is just so sexy. He's not talking to me, he's taking pictures. What does he see? Where is he angling? It's absolutely amazing.

Aria Vega [00:04:22] So did you already decide you were attracted to him when he was shooting you?

Evgenia Ribinik [00:04:25] Oh, yes.

Aria Vega [00:04:27] And what about him? What did he tell you later?

Evgenia Ribinik [00:04:30] We really connected without even talking. I thought he didn't even... I couldn't see that, but he was really interested. We started chatting and then he's like, Oh, I have your pictures, do you want me to send them to you? And I'm like, Yeah, let's get dinner. And our first date was actually Valentine's Day, which is very cliche, but it happened to be that day. But yeah, so and I still have those pictures, like one of the best portraits he's done of me.

Aria Vega [00:05:00] Evgenia and her husband, Julian Ribinik, have grown their wedding photography business together for over a decade. One day during a wedding, Evgenia's work suddenly swerved into a new niche.

Evgenia Ribinik [00:05:13] One of the brides who was getting ready to get into the dress in Manhattan, a beautiful hotel in the city, she was like, Oh, I have a beautiful lingerie and I want to do a few pictures. And of course, my husband is like, Well, I can't do that, so you have to. You are a woman that you should be able to pull this off. I'm like, I have no idea what to do with the person in a bra! It was like a very short like a mini-session. But I started looking into boudoir, and obviously it's been around, like the whole genre has been around for many centuries. I'm not the first one who got into that, but I was kind of mesmerized seeing something very dark and moody, but at the same time sensual. And it took me some time, I looked into the industry and there are different photographers all over the world. Basically, I'm actually now part of a group of boudoir photographers that we kinda connect once a year in Las Vegas to do different shoots, and capturing each other and chatting about the industry, and justmaking our industry a little more known and better because it's a very small niche in the overall photography world. And basically, [I] got my best friend, I said, Well, you have to pose seminude for me. She's like, Sure, when and where? And that's how I did that, and like, slowly learning. Our wedding style was also like very dark and moody, very New York, very black and white, and like sharp and vibrant. So it's kind of the style that I was hoping to transfer to my boudoir photography. Four years ago, I opened the studio, but before that I was just doing it here and there. And then at a certain point, my husband was like, Babe, you're amazing, you need to take it to the next level. And you, at least me as a person, I never think I'm good enough. I always feel like, Maybe this is not the time, but like sometimes you just need to have the person to be by your back and say like, You can do this, you need to make the brave step, freak out a little bit, but then take it over and everything will be fine. So I opened my studio. I was freaking out. I'm like, Oh my God, I'll have to sell a kidney to afford this, nobody's going to book me. But of course, I already had people lined up, because I already it was my daily thing. Now I have a second studio, a larger space still in Industry City, I really love that area. People come to me from all different states, you know I had a client from Canada, her friend who lives in Brooklyn, she did a session with me and she's like, I looked in Montreal, I couldn't find the style that I was looking for. And she said, "You know what? I decided to come to New York." Andit's a wonderful reason to come to New York is amazing all together. So now I do maternity, I do bridal shoots, and it's such a unique gift to give someone because it's very personal and it's like, if the person loves you and you're getting married to your partner, it's the most amazing gift that's very unique. You're pretty much gifting yourself in pictures. And honestly, I always tell my clients it's more of a gift for you than it is for the person you're gifting to, because it's an experience. It's something that you'll remember for many years from now. You'll look at those pictures and you going to say, Oh my God, I was divine. You know, I was like such an amazing— I mean, I'm sure 30 years from now you'll look amazing, but, you know, I just like to capture moments. It's the 21st century, we all our pictures are on the phone, and you need to have some physical prints, just like back in the days when we were growing up. So I feel like bringing art history and bringing portraiture and bringing boudoir photography into this world and creating what I do, it makes my heart very happy, and hopefully my clients.

Aria Vega [00:08:44] Yeah. Did you ever worry that smartphones and social media were teaching people to devalue the craft of photography? I'm curious how you navigated that shifting paradigm while growing your business.

Evgenia Ribinik [00:08:56] So Instagram has been an industry of its own. And of course everyone is very... Like everybody's a photographer now, because smatphone quality is actually amazing. Or you can pick up a camera from Canon or, you know, Sony, and you can figure out the settings and then you can pretty much take a picture. But I do hope that what I create, that my artistry stands out a bit more from a regular selfie. I would say that I'm actually not very good at selfies, really! Hopefully I'm much better at professional pictures. Sometimes I can't even explain... I taught some classes and I explained to people how to create sensual images, because it's very hard to not look funny or look weird on pictures, or like trying too hard and still look sensual and inviting and beautiful. You know, sometimes they say "You have an eye for photography." And I always joke, "Yeah, just one!" But, you know, it's just like a chef when you come to a restaurant. You can get a box from like a shipment where they send you all the ingredients, but you're not going to become a chef to create that beautiful dish. And that's why we go to restaurants! That's why I love New York, because they have the most amazing places. So just like that, of course I'm not comparing myself to chefs, but there is something more that goes into the image than just like a quick snapshot.

Aria Vega [00:10:18] When you were talking about boudoir being an ancient practice, something that we've just done for centuries, for as long as we've been making images, I couldn't help but think about the way that your work reminds me of those Baroque paintings from the 17th century, or what have you. There is this timeless quality to them, it's almost like a mediumless-ness. Like it could be a painting, it could be a photograph...

Evgenia Ribinik [00:10:45] Timeless, it's a good phrase because now everything is like, you can dispose of anything, like even clothes. We wear something for like one or two times, and then it's just disposed of. So I feel like that's something that... If it's something that you want to hold onto, I think it has that extra value that you get instead of just doing 500 selfies and like choosing one, you know.

Aria Vega [00:11:15] Evgenia doesn't just love her job because it's creative and fun. She also loves helping her clients marvel at their own beauty.

Evgenia Ribinik [00:11:23] I absolutely love it. Every time... I don't even call it a job, it's like a hobby that pays, because every time I show the images and my clients say, Oh my God, this is not me! I'm like, Well, this is you, I didn't Photoshop somebody else's body on your face! And they're like, I cannot believe other people see me like that. I'm like, That's the whole point. We as women are so critical ourselves, you know? We always look at the image and we try to find that little negative thing, instead of looking at the overall image and saying, "Oh my God, this is a beautiful woman and this is a gorgeous picture." So it's not even like the photography or a final product, it's more of a mental connection with all my clients, just to show them how other people see them. That's another appreciation of what I do, because it's even like a mental accomplishment for me. Every time when I speak to my clients, they leave my studio feeling that they are ready to conquer the world because they just they get like the pair of extra wings in the back and they're like, Oh my God, this is so amazing. It's very intimidating to be semi-naked in front of a stranger. So, you know, first they freak out and they're very nervous, but then they're like, oh, my God, this this is so amazing! Why did I wait so long?

Aria Vega [00:12:33] It's so interesting because, you're describing this space of your shoot as being this place where you can empower women to see themselves in a new light. I'm thinking of this in contrast with the notion of the male gaze, and the way that women have historically shown up in great works of art as objects to be gazed upon, as opposed to where the interiority of their experience is being considered and celebrated. It feels like you're really inverting, this notion of the male gaze. We're gazing upon the beauty of your subjects, but they are completely in control and empowered, and they're the ones commissioning that service, which is so cool.

Evgenia Ribinik [00:13:21] I couldn't say it better, so you brought it home for sure. That's why when clients... You know, maternity photography is different because that's something that people, like they're expecting baby, but if it's just a regular single boudoir session, when women do it for themselves, it's just the most amazing thing that you can do for us because we as women, we know we're doing that for ourselves because of the way that we feel bad spending money, or we think thatI'm not good enough, or that I'm not going to look like that person on the website. It's just it's so important to do it for your mental level, and just to believe in yourself like other people believe in you. So it's definitely something that I truly love.

Aria Vega [00:14:03] And I think it's totally valid to have that outside in approach to feeling that confidence and empowerment. Like it's a fine ideal to, to think like, Oh, I should always be able to generate those feelings for myself, from within myself. But we all know that we feel more confident when we like the way we're dressed, because it changes the way we interact with other people. That dress is not just a dress if it makes you more likely to approach a stranger that you find attractive, it's changing how you behave. In the case of your maternity boudoir shoots, the way that it can change your mindset about entering motherhood or approaching your pregnancy. I mean, that is, there's huge potential. I'm curious about what your clients tell you when they come to you about why they want to choose that particular time to do the shoot.

Evgenia Ribinik [00:14:56] So there are a few different aspects to that answer. Of course, one of them is, women expecting to bring a child into the world is such a huge moment in their lives, whether they have a partner or without the partner. So, of course, for any special event, just like when you get married, you want to have a photographer, you want to have some pictures from that event. If you have an anniversary, you probably want to have some pictures. So just like that, giving —not giving birth, because I don't do birth photography— but capturing your body in that state is something so memorable that people want to capture it. So that's probably the most common reason to do that. But you will be surprised, I had a couple of clients who were always very critical of themselves, and growing up with the social media and everything else, they were never happy with the way they looked, so they actually never did pictures of themselves. And when they transferred into this future motherhood stage, they said, You know what? I am bringing a child to this world. It's not about me anymore. It's about an extra person that will be my baby, and maybe it's something that I want to capture. It just shifts from a totally different perspective. That same client said, "I would probably never do boudoir pictures because I would always hate the way I look"? She said, "Because I'm expecting a baby, I want to do that." And she said that was one of the most wonderful experiences she's got. So hopefully she will come back to me for boudoir, just to prove the point that most if it is in our heads, you know, it's not there. And then the whole maternity session... Because maternity is not pretty sometimes. I mean, I've had two babies, I had two C-section, one emergency. You go through hormones, you go through mood swings. I was the crier in the movie theater, every time I was watching comedies or anything, I was just crying. So there's a lot of changes, especially for the first time, you know, a lot of changes in your body. You become, you look like you ate something, but you are not even there yet, so it's crazy. Then finally, when you get to like, you know, 25-30 weeks, you finally are shaping into this beautiful body that's expecting to give birth. So that's the best time to do the images, just because you are not worried about the tummy sticking out, you are not worried that you are a little curvier than you usually are. You don't need to suck in your tummy. So it's an amazing time to just relax, enjoy the session. I have different outfits, so women bring something of themselves or even tasteful nudes. You know, Demi Moore, something like that. It's such a it's such a gorgeous, stunning image without being weird or cheesy, it's like, Oh my God, this woman, she got it, she's a rock star!

Aria Vega [00:17:44] And speaking of celebrities, of course I was reminded of Rihanna while looking at that segment of your portfolio, who is due any day now as we're recording this. And it's just been so exciting to see Rihanna continue to be a fashion pioneer throughout her pregnancy, especially as it makes it that much more fun to celebrate her entrance into motherhood, as a first time mom. I'm curious, have any of your most recent clients described being inspired by her revealing maternity fashion?

Evgenia Ribinik [00:18:15] Yes, and my clients actually not only did that, because she has a lingerie line and she's actually opening a store in Brooklyn not too far from my studio.

Aria Vega [00:18:25] Oh, that's too funny!

Evgenia Ribinik [00:18:27] I'm planning to, that'll be my... figuring out like what she has there. But my clients actually love her line, because I feel like she creates real lingerie for real people... Something very unique and something different. So I've had clients who brought in her line to be photographed in, and now that she's just rocking her pregnancy, I'm sure she's... I'm actually not sure if she has any maternity lines, but I'm sure she's going to come up with something, because obviously she's showcasing everything. So I've had some mood boards that clients shared with me where she was in those pictures. So she's definitely, she did make a difference.

Aria Vega [00:19:11] You know, it's interesting to me that Rihanna's maternity fashion is inspirational to us because she's dressing exactly the same way she did before she was pregnant, which is to say showing as much skin as she wanted and ignoring the custom of modesty. It's interesting because for all of the sex positivity that the past decade plus has brought us, it makes me wonder if the needle has moved much at all for pregnant people, particularly pregnant women. And I wonder, you know, why do you think that women flaunting their sex appeal during pregnancy is still enough of a taboo that Rihanna being herself is groundbreaking?

Evgenia Ribinik [00:19:55] That's a good question. Actually I'm not sure I know, other than the fact that if you're becoming a mom, you cannot be sexy, which is weird. If you are a mom, you can still be sexy no matter what age you are. I say you're as sexy as you want. It's all about you! You're not going to feel sexy if you don't feel it. And you're not going to look sexy if you don't feel it. I've had clients who came to me, and she was 60 years young and she lost her husband, he died. She met this new guy and she's like, You know what I'm gifting him a package of boudoir pictures because I feel sexy, and we have an amazing connection, and I'm at the point in my life where I finally don't want to think about proper things and not proper things. I want to do what I want to do. I'm like, That's amazing.

Aria Vega [00:20:49] For anyone who is listening and feeling inspired to take their own sexy selfies or portraits of other people, what are some accessible tips for beginners out there?

Evgenia Ribinik [00:20:58] I would say... And again, I said that I'm not good at selfies, but I'm going to use my professional knowledge to just say what I would do. Probably the best thing would be first would be the setting. Of course, you don't want to be in a messy room. You want to have a clean background, something that would, you know, it's not going to disturb the person's eye from you to something else, like something in the backdrop, like some mess or unmade bed or something like that. Lighting is important, but then we're looking at two different things. If you want to take a good selfie, you probably want to stand in front of like a window or something. Like good light should be coming towards you. But then if you want to do a sexy thing, maybe you want to be in the shadows. So it depends onwhat you're looking at. But in terms of just like a nice clean shot, you want to stand in front of the window, not too close, because then it's going to be too— the shadows will be too harsh. So finding a good medium to get good light and like highlighting all your features. You know, something that will give the person who is receiving those images something to think about and see what's next.

Aria Vega [00:22:01] Would you recommend, like thinking of the person that you want to give them to while you're posing?

Evgenia Ribinik [00:22:06] Definitely, definitely. You always want to have, you know, like maybe a little smiley, not too serious. You don't want to do a LinkedIn profile picture! You want to have like the more sensual and sexy vibe. So definitely like smiling, like looking away from camera would be very cool, and I would say timeless.

Aria Vega [00:22:32] That's Evgenia Ribinik, boudoir and portrait photographer. If you'd like to get booked at her Brooklyn studio, you can find her website at Evgenia Ribinik dot com. Even if you don't need your own photos taken, definitely swing by the site to check out her beautiful work. Now, I'd love to hear from some folks who have modeled for a boudoir shoot. How did that make you feel about yourself? Would you do it again? Hit me up at Askaria@lustery.com with an email or a voice memo, or you can find me on Twitter @vegadreamcast. You can always remain anonymous. If you're into the show, please leave us a five-star rating and a review. POV is brought to you by Lustery, and this episode was hosted by me, Aria Vega. It was edited and produced by Kathryn Fischer and Adrienne Teicher, and our showrunner is Paulita Pappel. Lustery is the home of real-life partners filming their sex lives behind closed doors. If you're 18 or older, you can find us at lustery.com, And we're on Twitter and Instagram @lusterypov. Bye now, lovers!