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Adrian Rowan arranges the stock in the lingerie boutique, House of Rowan, in the room adjacent to her photography studio, Jan. 18, 2022.

Adrian Rowan arranges the stock in the lingerie boutique, House of Rowan, in the room adjacent to her photography studio, Jan. 18, 2022. (Al Amrhein, For NJ Advance Media/TNS)

Adrian Rowan opened her own boudoir photography studio during the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic, focusing the business on erotic, sensual portraits that she says empower her photo’s subjects and promote positive body image. The focus is a long way from how she started her career — as a photographer in the U.S. Air Force.

In 2001, Rowan of Merchantville, N.J., enlisted in the U.S. Air Force’s New Jersey Air National Guard and served for 13 years.

“To be honest I was a bit aimless after high school. I tried college for a bit but wasn’t self-motivated enough — A.K.A. I flunked out and I knew I had to do something to support myself financially and start being an actual adult,” Rowan said.

While serving in the Air National Guard, Rowan landed her first photography job as a civilian photographer in 2011 for the Dover Air Force Base where she photographed “Dignified Transfers” of fallen soldiers returning from overseas.

“It was humbling, rewarding and incredibly sad all rolled into one. I was incredibly honored to be able to provide those photos for the families of the fallen and give them their last photo memory, but at the same time I was taking the last photos of someone’s loved one,” Rowan said.

About a year and a half later, Rowan was hired to run the photography studio at the Pentagon for the Marine Corps as a civilian photographer where she took over 6,500 photos of numerous military personnel, including former Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus and the Marine Corps’ mascot, an English bulldog.

Today, Rowan is a full-time boudoir photographer.

“I really enjoyed everything that I’ve done, but I am doing something that is more creative now and more along the lines of something I’ve always wanted to do,” Rowan said. “Every step along the way gave me the technical skills and the discipline obviously with the military and working in those environments, to be able to run my own business. So, everything I’ve done brought me to the point that I’m finally at.”

In 2020, Rowan opened a new studio for her business “Adrian Rowan Photography,” at 1 E. Chestnut Ave., in Merchantville.

“In high school I thought the only avenue to make a living as a nude photographer was to work for Playboy or a similar magazine,” Rowan said. “While the magazine has changed a lot since my high school days, back then the male gaze was overtly apparent in their work so I kind of dropped the idea of being a professional nude photographer, but still pursued photography.”

Adrian Rowan has fun during a photo shoot in her photography studio, Jan. 18, 2022.

Adrian Rowan has fun during a photo shoot in her photography studio, Jan. 18, 2022. (Al Amrhein, For NJ Advance Media/TNS)

Rowan said her business offers a luxury, empowering, body acceptance experience for women.

“A great boudoir session should be an experience that’s empowering and fun. Boudoir photography is all about empowering you. Showing you another side of yourself, your inner self and the self you want to manifest,” Rowan said. “The you that wants to shine. We have created a body positive, judgment free, self-love zone in which you can explore your different sides. We provide a full-service boudoir experience catered to the individual.”

When choosing a new location for her studio, Rowan said she decided to purchase an 1888 Queen Anne Victorian house.

“During the pandemic, I started to notice a lot of things in my home weren’t working for me and my grandfather encouraged me to start house hunting. I really hadn’t planned on moving for a few more years, but I indulged and looked to see what was on the market,” Rowan said.

“As soon as I saw this house it was love at first sight, and as I read the listing and saw it had the option of commercial and residential use, well I’m not often one to say something is meant to be, but this was meant to be,” she said.

In July 2020, Rowan said she officially purchased 17th century old house and hired a contractor from Phoenician Construction to renovate it, all while taking care of her of then five-month-old son.

“It wasn’t as bad as I expected. The contractor was great about communicating with me and I was on site every day. This is the second home I’ve renovated so I was a bit more prepared the second time around,” Rowan said.

“The most stressful part was going to stores since my son couldn’t wear a mask. I tried to limit store visits as much as possible, and my aunt would watch him when she could to help us out,” she said.

Adrian Rowan stands outside her photography studio and lingerie boutique, Jan. 18, 2022.

Adrian Rowan stands outside her photography studio and lingerie boutique, Jan. 18, 2022. (Al Amrhein, For NJ Advance Media/TNS)

Rowan said she hopes her work inspires her clients to ask for more out of life and give them a sense of empowerment.

“I don’t want people to feel like they can’t do something because I’m a single parent by choice, and I’ve done everything on my own. So, I hope that I’m empowering women to be like, ‘oh, maybe I want to ask for a promotion or maybe I want to do this,’” Rowan said.

This month, Rowan also opened “House of Rowan Boutique,” which shares the same address as her studio.

“I wanted to be more of a concierge service for my clients and help them with one of their biggest questions, ‘what do I wear?’” she said.

Rowan said she also wanted an avenue to reach more women and give them a body accepting and judgment free space to exist in, whether it was through the lingerie boutique or through boudoir photography.

“I’m empowering women. I’m telling them like you can do anything you want, and it’s possible just take a chance. I know everybody’s at a different stage of their life or a different level but just because guys can do it women can do it too, or whatever gender you identify as,” Rowan said.

To give back to her community, Rowan donated $1,800 from her sales of sessions to the South Jersey Food Bank during the first year of the pandemic.

“My son was born 13 days before lockdown. I was fortunate to have my maternity leave coincide with the pandemic, so I was prepared to be out of work for a few months,” Rowan said. “At first, I thought it was going to end in a few weeks and I relished the extra time I was able to spend with my son with no distractions. As time went on, it kept getting extended and I started to see people I cared about struggling.”

Rowan said she wanted to help local families somehow and wasn’t sure what she could do while home with a newborn.

“I decided to offer a sale on boudoir sessions and donate the session fees to a local organization,” Rowan said. “I researched a few and I really liked what South Jersey Food Bank did for the community, they not only provided food to families but education and other resources to members of the community and local schools.”

Rowan also donated to a few businesses in Haddonfield, she said.

For more information about Adrian Rowan and her photography, visit www.arowanphoto.com.

vharris@njadvancemedia.com.

©2022 Advance Local Media LLC.

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