Three Self Portraits by Rachel Tine (c) Rachel Tine
Nathan: Hi, Rachel, if you had to describe your overall photographic vision in 25 words or less, what words would you choose?
Rachel: Genuine, passionate appreciation of the beauty, pain, and sensuality of being human, driven by gut and connection, physical space, and knowledgeable manipulation of available light.
Nathan: Describe your connection to the subject matter you photograph?
Rachel: I am drawn to people. I love human connection, collaborating with interesting and versatile people, and letting our individual personalities and our interactions organically dictate what the final product will be. Every shoot is a new and unique connection and experience, and it is invigorating and inspiring.
Nathan: Photography is many things … but one of its most important facets is the connection between what a photographer sees and how he or she chooses to capture it. This relationship typically changes over time— so much so, in fact, that many photographers feel it changes how they see. What are your thoughts about this?
Rachel: Being a photographer has definitely changed the way I see the world around me. The most obvious example is my love/hate relationship with the sun, or my obsession with gorgeous window light and how much it improves my mood, but I am also deeply impacted by things that I believe to be aesthetically pleasing, and I think that my mind is always at least subconsciously composing shots. Additionally, my interactions with my clients and subjects have helped to alter, in a very positive way, my approach and feelings towards people away from my lens, as well.
Nathan: Do you (a) previsualize what your photograph is going to look like, (b) discover what you wish to create as you create, or (c) engage a little of both?
Rachel: Mostly b. For most of my art, I can have an idea of the kinds of things that I would like to accomplish visually in a shoot, but really I let my gut, the physical space, the light, and my subject/the resulting interaction guide what I create. I used to feel like an impostor for not previsualizing more, but now I am thankful for and confident in my process.
Nathan: When you process your photos, do you listen to music? If yes, what music do you prefer to listen to and do you think that music influences how you process your images?
Rachel: Oh, yes and yes! I almost always have music playing while I process my images, and different kinds of music definitely impact my mood, image selection, and editing style greatly. I usually choose music to fit the mood that I’m currently in, although I rarely go with anything too overwhelmingly somber. Recently I’ve been obsessed with Glass Animals, but I have Pandora stations ranging from Charles Mingus to Rachmaninoff to PJ Harvey to A Tribe Called Quest that I use for successful editing.
Nathan: Who are three of your favorite photographers, and, more importantly, how has your appreciation of their work affected how you approach your own photography?
Rachel: This may sound sacrilegious, but I actually intentionally try to not consume too much photography, because I feel that one of my strengths is my unique visual style, and I don’t want to be subconsciously channeling other people’s work when I shoot. That being said, I once came across some of Philip-Lorca diCorcia’s work at MoMA and was in total awe. His lighting blows me away. I was drawn to beautiful light, contrast, and humanity in photos before seeing his work, which is probably why I was so drawn to it, but his work is a reminder of what I love about photography, and that is inspiring. ?
Nathan: Select a single photograph by another artist that inspires you. Explain why you are drawn to it and how it has inspired you. .
Rachel: Oh my goodness, the details and layers that are elicited by the lighting, props, composition, scene, facial expression, etc. My goal is to someday tell extremely detailed, layered, and meaningful stories through my work, incorporating larger scenes with my style of portraiture in ways that I currently do not. Philip Lorca-diCorcia’s images feel like scenes from a film, which I find visually compelling and inspiring.
Nathan: What artistic influences, outside of photography, have had a significant influence on how you approach your photography (for example, painters, filmmakers, musicians, poets, etc.)?
Rachel: I am in LOVE with really well done film. Using so many elements (music, light, dialogue, etc.) in perfect harmony to expertly craft a narrative is an elevated art. I get deeply excited when I watch beautifully crafted cinema, the more layers the better. Most recently, I was blown away by Park Chan-wook’s The Handmaiden. Every single element was so thoughtfully chosen and utilized, the humanity so palpable, the narrative deeply layered and so perfectly expressed. SO GOOD. I have also had a history of being very into David Lynch, the Coen Brothers, and Stanley Kubrick for similar reasons, but there are so many movies that make me giddy in their perfection. I am also deeply moved by music, but it most influences my art by influencing my mood.
Nathan: What are your thoughts about trying to find the best gear possible versus working on making the best possible image with the gear you already have?
Rachel: I get really frustrated by photographers who own all of the top gear announcing on social media that great photographs come from great photographers, and that gear has nothing to do with it. There are tons of people out there with the best gear who take really terrible photos, but you also can’t recreate the effect of, say, an 85mm lens at 1.2 with a lesser lens. I have a very limited number of lenses and bodies, none of which are top of the line, but I also am very much aware that there are some visions you can’t bring to life, no matter how talented you are, if your gear is truly incapable of the feat you need it to perform. In other words, I don’t think most people have a need for all of the best gear, but sometimes saving and investing in, or renting, a better camera body, lens, strobes, or whatever your specific style needs to shine really does make a difference.
Nathan: How would you define fine art? Is it just a label?
Rachel: I think that the creation of fine art ideally involves a thoughtful process and an end result that is aesthetically interesting/unique/beautiful/painful and elicits emotional reactions in viewers while also being meaningful to the artist. I do feel that the label of “fine art” is frequently applied to creative products which are rendered meaningful by an applied story rather than by possession of an inherent and palpable significance, which frequently leads me to feel emotionally disconnected from much art that bears the label of “fine art”.
Nathan: If you had to come up with one very important lesson that you think every photographer needs to learn, what would it be?
Rachel: Find your unique voice and don’t force it. Rather, let it come to you naturally, and continue to refine, question, and grow your artistic vision until you put your camera down for good. Nearly everyone has a camera, nearly everyone is oversaturated with images, and you will benefit from bringing true passion, dedication, and a unique approach/style to your work.
Nathan: What are your thoughts about the benefits of online sharing? Are there any particular social media or image sharing sites you prefer or do not prefer?
Rachel: There is no doubt that online sharing offers artists an ability to get their work in front of new and diverse audiences in a way that was never before possible, at least for most. Social media also has some social and artistic drawbacks, sometimes including a devaluing/oversaturation of art, and pressure to set yourself apart, frequently through methods that might detract from the artistic process at times. Personally, I try to strike a balance of putting my work out into the world regularly while also limiting my screen time and obsession with likes, followers, etc., so I typically post once a day five days a week to Instagram and use an app to post my IG content to most of my other social media accounts. I certainly don’t have a huge online presence, at least in part due to my minimal social media effort, but I do appreciate having more time to invest in my work and in-person connections than I otherwise might.
Nathan: What are our thoughts about photography contests? Do you think they are (a) a true measure of artistic success or value, (b) just an opportunity for a business to make money off photographers looking for exposure and validation, or (c) something in-between a and b?
Rachel: I am personally wary of most photography contests. I typically have a rule that I will only submit to contests that accept free or very inexpensive submissions (typically $5 or less). When I think about how much money most contests rake in with $20-70 submission fees from hundreds or thousands of eager photographers, I become frustrated. If the purpose of the contest is genuinely to discover the best art out there, there shouldn’t be such a high barrier to entry. I believe that the judges of the for-profit contests do pick their favorites from the pool of contestants who wanted to and could afford the fee, and frequently the judges are very well regarded and the rewards for winning such contests can be quite helpful and meaningful, but I still question their motives and have a hard time investing my hard earned money in such endeavors.
Nathan: What photographic cliché or common photography question, if any, irritates you the most (e.g. did you use photoshop or is straight out of the camera)?
Rachel: I sometimes feel frustrated by the sentiment that professional photographers and their gear are at the same level as enthusiastic hobbyists with cell phones. There are some great cell shots out there, and some amateurs can of course take a great photo (all established artists were amateurs once), but I personally see a big difference in the final product when the photographer has a deep understanding of light, composition, color, etc. and knows how to manipulate their gear to make the most of their artistic vision.
Nathan: If you were stranded on an island, and you could have one camera, one lens, one filter, one tripod, two books, and ten CDs, what would they be and why?
Rachel: I’ve been perfectly happy with my Canon 6D, and the lens would have to be the Canon 85mm f/1.2, hands down. I rarely use a tripod or filter, so no strong feelings there. Books are tough, as I don’t typically reread them, but I absolutely loved What is the What, and I was a big fan of Infinite Jest when I read it over a decade ago, and since it’s been so long, it might be a good book to have in a stranded-on-an-island situation (although a hard hitting non-fiction social commentary might be good, too). As for music, I’m currently obsessed with the Glass Animals’ How to be a Human Being because it’s fun and funky. I would also want a Fugazi album (likely 13 Songs) because I crave socially conscious hard hitting punk; Miles Davis’s Kind of Blue because it’s a pretty classic representation of what I love about jazz; the Rolling Stones’ Sticky Fingers because I have really fond memories of listening to the album on a solo cross country road trip when I was 16 driving at night in the desert under one of the starriest skies I had seen; Songs: Ohia’s The Lioness because this album brings out sadness in a profound and cathartic way and never gets old; Neutral Milk Hotel’s In the Aeroplane Over the Sea because it is such a unique album (and has provided me with my ringtone for years); PJ Harvey’s Rid of Me for kickass female empowerment and sexuality; At the Drive-In’s Relationship of Command because sometimes I need to scream melodically; an album of really great piano concertos for calm reflection, and. finally, I would need a homemade mix CD of my favorite songs to sing, from Sia’s “Elastic Heart” to Jeff Buckley’s studio version of “Hallelujah”, because singing brings me extremely deep peace and happiness.
Nathan: Are there any specific directions that you would like to take your photography in the future or any specific goals that you wish to achieve?
Rachel: I want to shoot larger scenes, and I also want to challenge notions of beauty, sexuality, feminism/femininity, etc. Most importantly, though, I have developed a framework for using photography to address and help combat social issues while empowering participants (my first such series addressed emotional abuse), and I have series in this vein regarding homelessness, opiate addiction, etc. that I look forward to bringing into the world.
Nathan: Is there any specific place that you would like to visit to take photos? (I am, once again, most interested in the why.)
Rachel: Kolmanskop, Namibia is currently at the top of my list because I have been envisioning what my portraits would look like there for years now. The abandoned buildings completely overrun by oceans of sand are just so unique and visually stunning, and the light bouncing off the sand seems to be so beautiful, at least in the photos I’ve seen. I also have fallen in love with shooting portraits in interesting buildings with gorgeous window light, which leaves a lot of options open. ?
Nathan: Is there anything else you wish to add?
Rachel: I can’t adequately express how grateful I am to love what I do and to love existence more because of the process of creation. 🙂
Spotlight on Three Images
Focal (c) Rachel Tine
- I chose this image because it strikes me visually and leaves a lasting impression, and I appreciate its portrayal of femininity and the struggle of appreciating beauty and femininity but also sometimes feeling invisible behind the parts of us that others sexualize.
- I was in NYC and finally set up a shoot with a model I had been talking to for a couple of years. I was one of the only photographers allowed to photograph her in her bedroom, which was a relatively small space, so it was by nature a somewhat intimate shoot, although she was somewhat reserved emotionally. I appreciated capturing this pensive moment (I was intentionally photographing her in the bit of dappled, moving sunlight coming through her window as it cast interesting and constantly shifting shadows across her body). As for post-processing, I removed a house plant and brought out the blues, whites, and shadows in Lightroom and Photoshop.
Strapped (c) Rachel Tine
- This was my first model/portrait shoot using window light on a cloudy day, and I fell in love with the quality of the light (all of the indoor images shown here relied on the same kind of light). I also appreciate the marriage of tension, hesitation, and sensuality in this image.
- This model (who is now a good friend) brought tension and sensuality to the table, and I enjoyed playing off of that. We chose the yellow stockings for their playfulness and sensuality. I removed a few skin “imperfections” and slightly brightened the yellows and whites in Lightroom and Photoshop.
Dual (c) Rachel Tine
- I appreciate the cinematic quality of this image (and this shoot in general). I look forward to my work going more in this direction, although with a layered story, thoughtful introduction of props, etc.
- This model seemed to possess a lot of sadness. I asked her to stand in front of the mirror in order to visually explore duality, relationship to self, etc. I also wanted to take advantage of the naturals orange-reds and green-blues, which I brought out in Lightroom and Photoshop, as well as removing an unwanted object on the wall.
A Few More Images
All images on this page– unless otherwise noted– are protected by copyright and may not be used for any purpose without Rachel Tine‘s permission.
The text on this page is protected by copyright and may not be used for any purpose without Rachel Tine or Nathan Wirth‘s permission.