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Interview: Rachel Joy Barehl
Rachel, how long have you been a photographer? What kind of work do you do?
I think everyone becomes a photographer the moment they have a camera in their hands. My journey with my camera began when I was 18. I went on a school trip and held a chaperone’s DSLR and fell in love. At that time, I had been working at my dad’s restaurant for several years and having stashed away most of my tip money, I bought myself a camera as a graduation gift. After high school, I nannied for a year in Amsterdam. Working for a family from Ohio who was far from their close friends and family, every day I’d post photos from our life together with little snippets of text. Quotes from the kids, glimpses of our life, what we were cooking. What seemed like innocent storytelling turned out to be a huge hit back in the States. So much so that when I came home, those family and friends started hiring me for family photos. A couple of years later, after eagerly second-shooting a few weddings, my dear friends Rebecca and Teddy asked me to photograph their wedding. It changed everything. They still are some of the best humans I know. They had a January wedding and other than slipping on some ice, it was my dream day. I shot 11 more that year, 25 the next, then a couple of years in the 30s. Now I’m climbing back down that mountain, capping next year at 15.
What is your favorite thing to photograph? Why?
Over the years, my work has evolved to meet the needs of my community, so for quite a while it was all about the weddings. Now I’m getting to take lots of maternity, baby, and family photos! I love continuing to work with the same families year after year. Some of my couples without kids come back for anniversary photos too! Having studied anthropology in college, I find this work to be important because there’s nothing better than creating a time capsule that will help a future teenager or adult rediscover who they were when they were 5. It’s nostalgic. Which is why I encourage families to let me come into their home and capture the mundane moments of childhood. What book does your toddler make you read them all the time? What toy is always left out for you to step on?
When was the last time you felt frustrated about your work as a photographer? How did you get past it?
I feel frustrated by the bulkiness of running a business. For years I enjoyed wearing many hats and keeping it fresh by doing a different aspect of the business every day. Now my problem is that my inbox weighs me down. Thankfully, I just hired a studio manager who will be amazing at the role. It’s hard for me to give up control, but there’s nobody I trust more. She’s one of my brides from 2013 and went on to start her own feminist wedding magazine called Catalyst Wed Co. When she moved back to Columbus after a couple of years in other places, we both professed our desire to work together. Now we are!
Do you have a muse? (This can be a person, a city, an Instagram account, anything!)
Oh my gosh, kids! They tell the truth in the most beautiful ways. Some of my proudest work happened when I was a nanny, and the kids I lived with would collaborate with me on projects. I like kids that are a little older. Recently, an 11-year-old told me her life plan, and her backup plan, and her backup-backup plan if the economy isn’t good. It was amusing, helped us connect, and made the shoot ridiculously fun.
What's something you haven't yet learned how to do yet (in photography), but want to learn soon?
Hmmm. I’d like to get better at using Photoshop. For now, I call myself a truth-telling photographer–aka, i won’t swap heads–but it would be nice to be capable of that. When I first started, I knew more of those things, but I’m rusty!
Rachel, you're an inspiration...in SO many ways. <3
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