Boudoir sessions: Wander into a new form of self-therapy

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Photographer Ashley Rice, of Wander in Lace Photography.

In the traditional definition of the word, a boudoir is a lady’s dressing room, a bedroom or a private sitting room. Derived from the French verb “bouder,” a “boudoir” literally translates to “a place to sulk.” 

However, the boudoir also carries certain sexual and erotic connotations as well. To “parlez” some “francais,” the “boudoir” could be a place where “une belle femme” might “rendez-vous” with a “paramour.” 

In the photography world, boudoir photos are described as erotic, sensual and intimate. But for Ashley Rice, owner of Wander in Lace Boudoir in Manchester, boudoir photography transcends the skin.

“[The photo sessions] are another form of self-therapy,” said Rice. “Boudoir is about finding your inner-self.”   

For Rice — a 32-year-old mother of two girls, who are 10 and 3 years old — the discoveries of self-love and empowerment for women are passions, and they are personal.

A Queen City native who attended Manchester West High School, Rice said she has always been creative and visual, but that creativity was temporarily derailed during some tumultuous times in young adulthood.

Now six years clean and sober, Rice said her battles with addiction and eating disorders indirectly led her toward a career in photography. “I’m proud of where I’ve been,” she said. “Photography helps me slow down the moment, and it helps keep me straight.”   

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“We’re not changing who you are. We want you to love yourself as you are,” says Ashley Rice of her approach to boudoir photography that result in images like this one.

In 2018, while pregnant with her second daughter, Rice said that her innate creativity began to rekindle. Wanting to capture the intimate moments of her pregnancy, Rice borrowed a camera from her sister and taught herself to master all of the settings then invested in her own camera.

“I felt like I wasn’t able to capture those memories of my first daughter,” she said.

Rice then began the process of “building a community” with other mothers and started photographing them as well. “Watching other mothers’s connections with their kids was so powerful,” she said.

After developing a trust with her subjects, Rice began taking more intimate boudoir photos of the women to help them “to see themselves.”

“I’m trying to get these women to see themselves from another person’s perspective—in a new light, at new angles,” said Rice. “I’m not there to fix their lives or change anything.” 

Many of her clients come to Wander in Lace Boudoir to rediscover their bodies and to learn to love themselves again, Rice said. 

However, in order to make her clients feel comfortable in front of the camera, Rice must first develop a relationship with them. While the majority of her clients are female, Rice occasionally photographs men and couples. “I love making connections with clients, and building and maintaining relationships with them,” she said. 

The process begins with the initial inquiry, which is “the most nerve-wracking” part, according to Rice. 

Rice first does a complimentary consultation call to get to know the client. “I want them to know that I’m proud of them for reaching out,” she said. “I also want them to know it’s a safe space for them, and I want them feel like they’re going to be walking into a room with a best friend.”

Her clients will then fill out a questionnaire so Rice can tailor their sessions to include specific music and snacks and clothing, while also giving Rice a clearer idea about her clients as people. 

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Photographer Ashley Rice says her boudoir sessions are a form of self care for women who aren’t used to celebrating their bodies.

On the day of the shoot, the client will arrive at the studio in a renovated mill building in downtown Manchester, and they’ll begin with the snacks and music and some breathing exercises to relax the client as they choose their outfits.

Then Sam Lambert, a professional hair and make-up specialist with 14 years of experience, takes over and works her magic for about an hour. 

After the hair and make-up is completed, Rice will spend hours photographing the clients. “It’s not about how they look, it’s about how they feel in front of the camera,” she said. “That feeling will affect the pictures. I want them to feel free and liberated.”   

Rice will then sort through the digital photographs from the session herself and edit them, although she is adamant that she will not change shapes with Photoshop. “I want them to be as natural as possible,” she said. “We’re not changing who you are. We want you to love yourself as you are.”

A week or two after the photo shoot, the client again will meet with Rice and view the photos. The client then chooses the ones they’d like to keep and share. If the client grants permission, Rice will post some of them on the Wander in Lace website, as well as their Instagram and Facebook pages. 

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“I’m proud of where I’ve been,” says Ashley Rice, six years clean and sober. “Photography helps me slow down the moment, and it helps keep me straight.”

“It’s always the client’s choice to show the photos. It’s not because [the cleints] want to be seen, it’s because they can,” Rice said. “It’s their stories that lead to the photos. The photos are just the cherry on top.” 

And Rice makes sure her clients leave pleased. 

One client named Heather [last name redacted] explains in a Google review “how wonderful it was to work with Ashley and Sam.” Heather continues: “They knew how to make me feel comfortable and welcome the moment I got there. I can’t thank [the] ladies enough for making me feel so beautiful.”   

As for a message Ashley Rice would like to convey to her clients, she thinks about it in terms of her own two daughters. 

“I want them to know that it’s okay to love their bodies, and I don’t want them to feel insecure or unsafe in their own bodies,” said Rice. “I want them to know that they have a choice to be who they want to be.”

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To contact Ashey Rice at Wander in Lace Boudoir for a consultation, visit their website here.

About this Author

Nathan Graziano

Nathan Graziano lives in Manchester with his wife and kids. He's the author of nine collections of fiction and poetry. His most recent book, Born on Good Friday was published by Roadside Press in 2023. He's a high school teacher and freelance writer, and in his free time, he writes bios about himself in the third person. For more information, visit his website: http://www.nathangraziano.com