Welcome! My name is Rachel. I called Soho home for my first 18 years, but went away to study at Wesleyan University in Middletown, CT, earning a B.A. in English and Science in Society in 2013. I studied abroad at the University of Sussex in the Spring of 2012, living in the wilds of East Sussex, and explored western Europe with both camera and pen.
These days I am based out of Ridgewood, Queens. I have been a street, event, and portrait photographer since I was a teenager, winning a YoungArts Silver Award for it in 2009 and a Create in Brighton Award in 2012.
Lately I’ve been working for numerous blogs, including PSFK, where I have published over 300 posts, and a persistent interest of mine is images: how people are increasingly using them to communicate on the web, and how they act as “canaries in the coalmine” of our increasingly immaterial economy. My senior thesis delved into the website dump.fm as illustrative of these issues.
I grew up in Soho, the part of New York that is involved in fashion and selling itself. I quickly felt a sense of distance from a culture where models and celebrities occasionally appeared amid a sea of tourists, and the only place to hang out was the Urban Outfitters. There were few other people my age. Computers and the internet seemed like the perfect gateway to the more ordinary world.
In the current technological image based society, the work that I have been pursuing involves investigating approaches to image making and image sharing in a landscape where content can be duplicated and shared across networks for free.
In my street photography, a pursuit I began as a teenager, I have “held up a mirror to society” and emphasize the larger systems of money, desire – and other bodies – that typical denizens of the street seemed eager to shut themselves out from.
My outsider’s perspective got me early attention and recognition on the internet, and friends admired my penchant for getting natural pictures of them. But as Wilde wrote, “it’s the spectator, and not life, that art really mirrors,” and since I discovered my talent I have also been searching for how I can use my usual perspective to create more complex – but also more personal – critiques.
When I won a YoungArts Silver Award for my photography in 2009, I was flown to Miami with all the other finalists, where I discovered the sometimes intimidating world of galleries and collectors there. It was a world of self-promotion and big money – not so different from that of my hometown. What I liked best was just exploring the streets and doing my work.
In college, as I was immersed in a world of text and we spoke little of images in class, I saw my friends producing less of their original work and instead sharing the work – or simply shared memes – of their respected peers on social media. It was the year after the stock market crash, and the advice I’d always gotten that there was ‘no money in art’ began to spread to ‘no money in (photo)journalism.’ Every event on campus seemed to be attended by a litter of aspiring photographers, trying to outshine each other with expensive cameras.
Everything that was transmitted on a computer, I realized, was turned into a file, and files could be reproduced endlessly and silently. My photos, too, were just files, and I soon discovered online communities on Tumblr that were interested in manipulating them as such, posting montages of things as disparate as kawaii kittens and gore in a way that somehow made sense.
Right before my junior year of college, I found dump.fm, which seemed like the culmination of this trend so far: the young and often artistic people there had created a little secret language, with a tiny drawing of a scribble or a person’s foot embodying accumulated meanings from hundreds of uses. This eventually became the topic of my senior thesis in 2013.
But I also needed time away from the computer. My ideas were first given room to breathe during my semester at the University of Sussex, where I had an entire term to connect the landscapes I saw and photographed, their rich history, and all the modernist novels I read.
As the societal trends in photo and content sharing intensified during the time that I was in college, I have found more unusual and ‘slow’ ways of expressing myself, such as sustained, thoughtful pieces of writing. I am even making a return to drawing.
But the urge to be more unique – and louder – than the next person is a constant pressure on me as it is on so many other young people. I believe self-promotion is being valued above the quality of one’s own work. Thus I’ve taken a critical stance toward the individual, producerist, freelancer model that work in the creative fields has moved toward.
The effort I’ve put in to this website is a learning process, not only about web development but also the work that goes into self-representation.