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Chubstr Spotlight: Abbie Rudolph

Chubstr may be a men’s style destination, but we get a lot of our ideas and inspiration from the amazing people of all genders we meet throughout the course of the day, see on TV or when browsing our favorite websites. These people are interesting, inspiring and fun, which is why we’re launching a new feature called Chubstr Spotlight. We’ll be spotlighting our favorite people of all shapes, sizes, genders, nationalities, and occupations. This is something we’ve been planning for a while, and we’re happy to finally be able to bring it to you. Look for more interviews in the coming weeks, as we spotlight people that you might not know yet, but you probably will soon.

We’re kicking off the feature with 31 year old photographer Abbie Rudolph. Her St. Louis, Missouri studio, Abbie Takes Pictures has been growing by leaps and bounds since she started it as a part time venture in 2004. Since then, she’s done almost 1,000 photo shoots ranging from baby photos to boudoir sessions. We were able to catch her by phone before a photo shoot in the Tampa, Florida area, and she talked to us about getting started in photography, her thoughts on men with shoulder pads, and her new, sunnier outlook on life.

Chubstr: Tell us about your passion.

Abbie Rudolph: Life is my passion. It’s cheesy but true. Ever since I started my own business, it’s changed my perspective on things. In my first career, I was a teacher, but doing what I’m doing now where I have to make all the decisions and I have total control over my destiny, which changed my outlook on life. I’m focusing on positivity and only allowing positive things into my life and that feeds directly into my business decisions. It helps you learn to believe in yourself and to be proud of your work. I’ve learned to look at things like this over time.

C: How did you get into photography?

AR: I was always the girl in middle school and high school with a camera. When I was a little girl, the first thing I remember asking for was a camera for my birthday. My parents gave me one of those little stick cameras that had the flash you stuck in the top and it only had like 12 pops per flash. They smelled like burnt paper when you took a picture. I remember taking so many pictures with that camera and then waiting what felt like forever for the film to be developed at the lab. Maybe only one or two of the photos would come out, but I loved it.

I never really thought about photography as a profession. I had known all my life that I wanted to be a teacher; it was fun and I was good at it. So I went and got my degree in elementary education. Throughout all that, I always had photography related side jobs. I was taking pictures of my students or good friends. About 7 years ago, a friend asked me to photograph her wedding. I had a lot of fun doing it and I was hooked. My friend loved the photos and passed the word around and it just snowballed from there. I kept taking photos on the side and growing my business while teaching full time. The teaching market sort of dried up here, so I had to make a decision as to what I really wanted to do. I jumped headfirst into it on a full time basis and it’s been the best two years of my 31 years so far.

C: And you’re in Florida now, right? Are you there for a photo shoot?

AR: I am. I’m here with Tyler, one of my staff photographers and we are shooting a wedding on the beach.

C: Nice! I’m uninformed when it comes to this, but when I think of photographers, I usually think of them staying in one specific area and taking gigs there. You seem to travel on a pretty regular basis, though.

AR: We get to travel quite a bit. We’ve done work in Massachusetts, Florida, and California. I have some great contacts in the San Jose area, so we do a lot of work there. We’re also going to be doing a shoot in Michigan on a 70ft dune overlooking the lake. I’m super pumped about that – it’s going to be incredible. This dune is like nothing I’ve ever seen before, and I’ve never been to Michigan, so I’m excited about it.

C: Do you think destination weddings are something that you’ll continue to do?

AR: I do. It’s becoming more common to do destination weddings, and people realize that when they do something like this, they want to have someone there taking photos that they can trust. It’s not too expensive for them – I just make sure that I have a place to sleep and I have a car to get around in. We don’t charge a fee for things like that. Traveling for me is so much fun and it expands my portfolio and my experiences so much that I don’t want to make money off the fact that I’m traveling, I just want to be there to take the pictures and if I get to tag along, that’s great.

C: What would you consider your speciality?

AR: I’d say my speciality is people and life. There are photographers that take pictures of buildings and architecture and nature, but my speciality is emotion. My favorite photos out of the millions I’ve taken are the ones that show extreme emotion. Whether it’s a Dad holding back tears when he sees his daughter for the first time on her wedding day or a couple on an engagement shoot staring into each other’s eyes,  it’s always that moment that becomes my favorite image of the session. Love, happiness, laughter – being able to capture that is my speciality.

C: Is there any kind of shoot that you’d like to do but haven’t had the chance to yet or shoots that you’d like to do more of?

AR: Well, the shoot I photographed for you with Chubstr in this great location (editor’s note: keep an eye out for the shoot in question next week) made me realize that I could do well with fashion and abstract locations, and I think that’s something I’d like to get into. It’s fun for me to take great photos that aren’t necessarily capturing a moment – they’re more posed. I don’t normally like that and my photos usually aren’t posed, but doing that photo shoot with you let me step outside of my box and it felt really good. When I look at those photos I get that excited feeling in the pit of my stomach. I had a really good time that day – it was perfect.

At this point, I only have a plate that’s so big, and right now it’s pretty full, so eventually I might be able to do things like that. We’re booked out through 2011 for weddings and we’re booking into 2012 now. Since weddings are usually on weekends we do have time open for other things during the week. I’m busy, but it’s a good kind of busy. I would never ever trade boring or bored for busy. I’d rather be overwhelmed and busy and happy than bored and unhappy any day.

C: Style. It’s a big part of the site and you’re a pretty stylish woman. How would you describe your style?

AR: I’d say my style is fun and colorful and outside of the box for sure. It can be incredibly hard to find the things I really want to wear, being a plus size girl, and being able to wear the things that are within the style that I want to portray isn’t always an option. There are definitely more options than when I was a kiddo, but being able to dress the way I want isn’t always what I get. I feel like I get my image across with accessories and purses and jewelry. I pride myself in being the stylish fat girl (laughs). I’ll never be the girl in jeans and a looney tunes sweatshirt!

C: When it comes to a man’s look, is there a specific style you gravitate toward?

AR: It’s funny you say that. When we were waiting in the airport for our flight to Florida, there was a boy waiting for a flight that would have been PERFECT for Chubstr. It took everything I had not to go up to him to get a picture! I gravitate toward guys with a unique style. I’m not going to go for the guy in the khakis or the guy in the suit. I like guys in jeans and button down plaid shirts or the cuff shirts with the army shoulder button things – what are those called?

C: Epaulets? (Voice in background: Shoulder pads?)

AR: Not shoulder pads! Tyler said shoulder pads – no! (laughs) The guy at the airport had one of those shirts and scruffy hair and plastic glasses and a bunch of facial hair and it just took everything I had not to just go over there and lick him on his face! (more laughter) He was adorable! It’s always the guys who have that indie scruffy yet polished look. I like it when a guy gives me something to work with, for sure.

C: Let’s talk about dating. What are you looking for in a potential beau?

AR: Unconditional love. Someone that is accepting of my loud crazy mouth. Someone who can agree to disagree. Everyone is entitled to their opinion and we won’t always agree, but that that is okay. Someone that I can trust and who understands that I have a crazy passion for my job and that it takes up a big portion of my life, but that they will come first when we get to that point in our lives.

C: Is there anything a gent should absolutely not do when out with you?

AR: If the other person has a lot of negativity or hate or anger, sorry – we’re just not going to jive very well. We’re all in this together, and I can’t handle people that are not accepting of everybody and all of their speed bumps and their pimples and their zits and their belly rolls and their dimply thighs and their crazy hair and the color of their skin. I need to make sure that the people I surround myself with have the same mindset – that’s my number 1 thing.

C: Music – what are you listening to?

AR: I just discovered a new chick last night on my pretend boyfriend, Craig Ferguson’s show, and it’s a band called Oh Land. It’s this girl, and she used to be a professionally trained ballet dancer but she had a huge back injury and started writing music after that. I’m all about acoustic music – it makes my insides kick. I love lyrics that make your insides churn. That’s my style. Some of my favorites are Sarah Bareilles, Ani DiFranco, Marc Broussard and Ernie Halter. There’s a local artist here in St. Louis named Summer Osborne, and she’s supremely talented, and I’m just in love with her passion, her drive and her music.

C: What’s next for you?

AR: Expanding on what I already have. I also co-own a one-stop shop in St. Louis called Wedd, and I see us expanding that business and promoting that idea. I want to make sure that my staff and clientele continues to grow. As far as me, I see myself continuing on this path of making better choices for myself and exporting some amazing energy.

Photo Credit: Bonnie Nichoalds, Abbie Takes Pictures Intern Photographer