Rachel is a natural—photographer, writer, and friend. She likes butter in her coffee (it's actually delicious) and people by her side (intensely social, as she puts it). Rachel is a 5'2" extrovert married to a 6'6" introverted engineer. But make no mistake—what she lacks in height, she surely makes up for in charm, passion, and authenticity.
1. Without saying your actual titles, what do you do? What are your roles? Paid or unpaid.
Well, I actually don't really have titles anyway. I'm a photographer most of the time, because wherever I go, I have this little camera in my pocket, also known as my phone. But I also carry my big-girl camera around when people are paying me to make pictures for them.
I'm also a writer, in all aspects of my life. I write sometimes to make money: for companies or nonprofits or small business. I write sometimes about food. I write for my personal blog, which arguably doesn't make me money. I should write more for the people I love, but sometimes when you write words all day for other people in a voice different than your own, you just want to give them hugs instead of coming up with more words.
2. When did you start to take photographs and write? Do you perceive photography and writing as an innate gift or a developed skill?
My mom shot a roll of film a week growing up. She photographed every major life event that me and my four siblings had. It wasn't like she ever handed me her camera and I had an "AHA" moment. I just grew up with a woman who made it very clear that documenting life was important. She wanted to keep everything: every moment, memory, and feeling. I still love that about her.
So I just started doing that too in high school. I took all the photo classes they offered and worked as the yearbook photographer. I wasn't very good at first, if I'm being honest. I tried to be artsy. And I'm not. I'm much better at telling the truth very directly than trying to be vague and mysterious. That translated into both fields. I don't write poems and I'm really bad with metaphors. But I can straight up tell you what happened and make you laugh.
I've always been a writer. Not always a good one. I'm not even always a good one now. I have hilarious stories that I wrote when I was little. People think the term storyteller is super hip, but six-year-olds are the best and most uncool ones out there. The world runs on stories; it always has. If you can tell a good story, you'll be fine in life.
3. What is the biggest compliment someone could give you?
Oof. This is a hard one because who doesn't love any compliment? I'm greedy for them, so I even take the back-handed ones. Ummm ... I would have to say the best ones would have to do with me being selfless. I feel very prideful and self-involved in the day to day and I have to concentrate a lot of effort on not coming across that way to other people. If I ever reach a point where people see me as selfless, I can stop trying. (I joke.)
4. Storytelling. Why does it matter?
Storytelling! I didn't even know you were gonna ask this when I wrote the answer to the question above!
It matters because it's always mattered. People think it's new: telling stories to create your brand and to get people on board. It's not! Just like we use stories to get people to like us, brands and companies and nonprofits need good stories to get people to like them. It's been done forever and ever and I hope it never stops. I do hope it stops being cool though so we can just get back to doing what's natural rather than forcing it.
5. What international work have you done? What was it and how did it affect you?
I worked as a writer/photographer for CURE International in Africa. It was the best decision of my life for a couple reasons, the main one being I met my hunk of a husband while I was there. It would be a cooler story if he were Ugandan, but he was just a 6'6" white giant from Denver.
Besides that experience re-routing my life to Colorado from Pennsylvania, it also created a deep desire in me understand other people. I've never been as "out of my element" as I was during those seven months. It was exhausting being around people completely different from me all the time. But I learned that when I had a camera, pad, and pen, people understood that I was there to tell a story. And I loved that. Those tools are often seen as a barrier, but I think they are a catalyst. I hope I spend the rest of my life carrying them around.
6. In your creative works, do you prefer to work alone, or on a team?
I need to be alone for 30 minutes a day, maximum. My friend once used the term "intensely social" and I've adopted it for myself. Being around others is what keeps me breathing. I've also never had a good idea while thinking ... I annoyingly need to talk out loud or write when I'm brainstorming. I live (and will probably die) by the philosophy that thoughts are meant to be shared.
7. What are three words you never want to become? Three words you would love to become?
Boring. Tired. Busy.
Content. Buoyant. Care-free.
8. Living vs. Existing. What’s the difference?
Living means I'm feeling all the feelings all day long. I'm in the moment and in the day and I'm not wishing anything away. I love the feeling, "This is exactly where I want to be and the person I want to be with."
Existing means survival to me. Just making it through (usually because I committed to too many things) and anxiously waiting for something that's next. I hate missing people/places/things because it means I'm not content. I know it's a part of life but I kind-of think it's the worst one.
9. People say I’m ____________________.
Loud? Gregarious? Intimidating? Awesome? I don't know what they say, because I'm assuming it's behind my back. (Again. Joke.)
10. Lastly & light-heartedly, name a guilty pleasure!
Oh, this reminded me of what people say about me! One of my sisters says, "Rachel is a walking guilty pleasure." And I am. I love everything cliche, everything that I'm supposed to be too cool to love: Bacon. The Bachelor. Jodi Piccoult novels. Wine. John Mayer.