We had the good fortune of connecting with Rachel Bennett and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Rachel, any advice for those thinking about whether to keep going or to give up?
I’m going to address this question through the lens of being an artist, but I think many people could relate to this no matter what they are pursuing. For obvious reasons, the last couple years have been really tough and I think a lot of people have been faced with this question of ‘how the hell do I keep going?’ I’ve been struggling with this a lot recently, sometimes feeling like I’ve lost any forward momentum; I have felt at times, that the work I’m doing is meaningless – that, while the world is experiencing so much suffering, why does my art matter? What impact is it making for the greater good? Does anyone even care? But I’ve been able to keep going for a couple reasons, and that’s how I know I’m on the right path. The first reason is, that I can’t imagine myself doing anything else, and I don’t want to be doing anything else. Making art is a part of who I am; it’s what brings delight and excitement to my days, it’s what cuts through the mundane and does in fact make me feel like I have a purpose on this planet. So that gut feeling of, I am an artist and I need to create for ME, for my wellbeing on this earth, that’s the first reason. The second reason is, that when I get to work with others and they are super stoked on the work we create together, I can see how what I’m doing positively impacts people, even if in a small way. I especially feel this when I work with other creatives, such as musicians; I love knowing that my art is uplifting and supporting someone else’s art, someone else’s dream. So I keep going, keep pushing myself past the nagging imposter syndrome, keep trying out new creative ideas. I try to find comfort in unknown of, who knows what kind of magic I will create in the future. That’s one of the coolest things about being an artist, you never know what wild idea might pop out of your brain and into this reality. I also think it’s important for any artist to look backwards, at the work they’ve done in the past and see how far they’ve come – that perspective can really help. It has helped me be like, oh wow, look at that; if I hadn’t kept going, I wouldn’t be where I am now.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
I’m a multifaceted artist who likes to dabble in many different mediums, from painting to collage to handpoked tattoos, but my primary art form is photography. I’ve been taking photos since high school where I learned how to use a 35mm camera and printed everything by hand in the darkroom. Now I run my own photography business in Seattle where I shoot digital and film – I love working with local and national musicians, shooting live shows and festivals, and getting creative in my studio. I’m obsessed with color; very rarely will you see work from me that’s muted with monochrome tones – I want color to be the star of my images, because color mixed with light makes the world endlessly magical! I think my use of color sets my work apart from others, as well as how I strive to capture my subjects in a genuine way. I love the playful collaborations that come from portrait work; getting to meet many different kinds of people and helping their personalities shine through my photographs makes my work fulfilling.
I’m proud of myself for overcoming my imposter syndrome – that shit is no joke. It’s been difficult for me; it’s hard not to compare myself to others my age or younger, thinking that they are more “successful,” hard not to feel like I might let me client down if I don’t deliver exactly what they wanted, like I’m not creative enough or technically good enough. It has been a rollercoaster of emotions, and even now I can’t say that I feel fully confident 100% of the time. But I have overcome a lot of my self doubt, through trial and error, and through just pushing myself out of my comfort zone even if it’s scary. Most of my experiences working with others have been extremely positive, and the more I’ve just DONE THE WORK, the easier it has been to feel like I’m where I’m meant to be, like I can truly call myself a professional photographer. Also the more I have trusted my creative gut and put work out there that I feel excited about and proud of, the more confident I’ve felt, and the more people have been drawn to my work. Being authentic to yourself goes a loooong way in a creative profession.
I don’t think it’s easy to be a working artist! These days you have to be your own business manager, marketing directer, accountant, etc and it’s exhausting to be honest. I also struggle with balancing the business side of things with the tender, creative side of why I make art. I’m very emotionally tied to my work, and for me it can get murky when money and expectations are thrown into the mix. It’s hard for me to detach my emotions while also providing a professional service to others. But I think it’s a learning process, and learning how to let go of one’s art and understand that someone’s judgment of it is not necessarily a judgment of you the artist!
In the coming months, I dream of more personal projects, which look like venturing out into the forest and mountains with a film camera, where I’ll shoot self portrait nudes or find a friend to model. This work is the closest to my heart, and is something I want to do more of in the coming year. I want to experiment more with medium format film, and get back to my roots of why I became a photographer. I also want to travel for some photoshoots, and work with more musicians across the country. Truly I’m excited for the unknown and the potential of the future, and love that I am able to create art with other people; art is a universal language, a way to build community, and I can’t imagine myself ever really doing anything else.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
I wouldn’t be where I am now without my friends – the friends who let me take photos of them when we were teenagers and I first picked up a camera, to the friends now who are down to adventure out into nature and take photos in the middle of the forest. Friends who have supported me with encouraging words, who have purchased art from me, who have shouted out my art to the people they know – all these friends have made it possible for me to see myself as an artist and believe in myself. Thank you.