- Jon Longworth
Seminar with Rachel Brown
Rachel Brown is a photographer, as well as a photographic director. In the last decade, she has a accumulated a wealth of experience that has pushed her towards a vast array of opportunities.
Rachel Brown, unlike many of the photographers that we've had the pleasure of meeting, seems to operate very differently. Whereas they all seem to photograph the subjects based off the concepts that they have been issued, Brown would instead place casting calls out on public forums, as well as sites such as Craigslist (which I think it can be universally agreed with that we should all stay away from Craigslist) to find people who were looking for modelling opportunities.
One of her first major projects was the 2008's 'I Want To Be Just Like You', which took women from several age groups and in a manner of speaking 'dolled them up', expressing them as female caricatures in a sense. From this, she spoke about the importance of ethics in photography. When working with children, it is important not to put them into situations or dress/style them in ways that would take advantage of their youth. By being the age they are, they're not able to make the same conscious decisions that fully grown adults can make, so it is important to be aware of the people you are shooting to make sure that you're not exploiting them.
On the topic of exploitation, Brown also discussed how it was important to her not to imprint her own political ideals onto the subjects that she was photographing. To do so would be photographing these people for the sole purpose of artistic gain, which in a sense is exploitation. Whilst you can photograph environments and people that have been effected by political and social circumstances, it's important not to deflect your own beliefs onto the situation, as it immediately undoes the validity of the conversation. You are no longer documenting social circumstances, but instead giving your own commentary on it, which personally, I don't think it is a photographers place to do.
Brown throughout her career, has studied in several locations around the world, including two artist residencies that were respectively set in New York and Sicily. The former being a place, which whilst she studied in, she also utilised the time to photograph the quieter regions of the state, focusing on a more domestic set of images. Sicily on the other hand, was a place that she was commissioned to photograph, which as you would expect, results in a very different way that you would view the landscape. As well as that, the differences in terrain results in the New York imagery feeling very contained, whereas the Sicilian imagery feels very grand and very open in scale. It's a matter of understanding the environment that you're in so that you can photograph it in a way that compliments the culture and history of these locations.
After shooting numerous independent projects, Brown then went on to work as a photo director, working with large groups of people to orchestrate images that would be found in magazine articles. Her current place of work is the magazine known as Bazar, which operate as a fashion magazine.
Rachel Louise Brown has a career that has widely interested me because of its variety. She moves from one project to the next, and whilst there are some visual techniques that have managed to transfer over to each one, none of her work feels like it starts to become formulaic at any point. She understands the environment that she is in at that time and adapts to the changes, which is something that I hope to achieve in the future of my career.