We had the good fortune of connecting with Rachel Wallace and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Rachel, what led you to pursuing a creative path professionally?
The camera for me has always been something I use to observe and try and make sense of the world around me. I have been behind a camera from a very young age taking visual notes and making pictures. Pursuing a creative career was never a conscientious decision for me, I simply did it. First expressing myself physically on a drama degree at University, photographing the student drama productions as a sideline, and documenting for the University student newspaper. Next, with photographic knowledge alongside the technical expertise I had acquired through lighting, staging and making sound for staged productions I joined an event production company and worked in their photographic department designing and creating slide/tape presentations for large staged commercial events. Becoming a mother took me away from the 24/7 world of business and into a home darkroom where I honed my skills and could focus on a more creative and personal side of my work. I began to study my art form further with a Post grad Certificate at Central St Martins, London and an M.A at University of Westminster. During this period I learnt more of myself and what my work is about – life and death, our life cycles and those of the natural world, the parallels and the connections within them. Death as part of life. The intertwining and connection of all things to all things. The fascination of creation, and how we are a part of nature, rather than apart from it. This is now my mission – to inform others of, and share my world, my experience of living within it and how precious, well designed, delicate and delightful it is. To try and educate others to what we have and what is slipping away in order that they might look, and think on, and understand the preciousness of the natural world, and how our lifecycle is simply a part of a larger lifecycle that needs looking after and preserving for those who will follow us.

Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
Alongside my desire to share earthy joys lies an alternative side of me that wishes to help people come to terms with the end of life, and I work commercially as a funeral photographer. I started this side of my work almost 15 years ago believing that photos of funerals make it easier to talk about grief with others who find it hard, and also helps us look back at what was most likely a hard day with positive feelings. I have watched and listened to people looking through their images and telling wonderful stories of the deceased, and sharing their memories as well as enjoying being reminded of those who came to pay their respects to the person they loved and lost. The details and presence of mourners that were lost to them in the emotional blur of the day are brought to them in a memory album of beautiful and uplifting images, and I feel this is where my photography and creativity can also help others.

When I began this work there was no one who did this type of photography. I was the first in the UK to offer it, yet it was not an easy service to advertise. I built up my business slowly and carefully, trying to be sensitive in such matters. Some people think it is a strange and invasive thing to do, cameras at a strangers (to me) funeral. Yet the comments I receive afterwards make it all worthwhile.

The two biggest lessons I have learned in life – in business are not to be defensive if you make a mistake, or a misunderstanding. Just say sorry for what you have done rather than justifying the error and then try and fix it for the person you have wronged or let down. Strangely you feel better for it and they will not come back at you.

Secondly – NEVER ASSUME! I have made errors both large and small through making the simplest of assumptions. When I look back at where I went wrong it will always be an assumption somewhere. The power point that should have been there wasn’t. The person who will understand what I am doing because they are so easy going – doesn’t. It makes life harder as I have to check and double check things and people to ensure my facts are correct and Ive not made an assumption but its always worth it. So when you find yourself saying Ill assume x, y or z., DONT! Check it out.

I always say that “If you understand my photography, then you’ll understand me” and thats what I would like people to think about when they see my creative work. It’s a personal journey, never staying the same. I usually have several projects on the go and whilst the underlying theme is the same each time – it will be a different way of expressing that theme. Someone once described my website as a “treasure trove” and that is how I’d like my work to be thought of. It doesn’t repeat itself. I don’t think you can look at a body of work of mine and then another and say they are by the same person. I’m an eclectic thinker. So perhaps you can’t put me in a box – which I like.

Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
I live in a tiny village in the Oxfordshire countryside in the UK. Wow – there isnt a great deal to do here except walk among the hills and glorious scenery. I would take someone to my favourite woods to experience the depth, peace and tranquillity within. I would take them on a long walk over the hills to look over the glacier scraped flatlands towards Oxford and beyond.
We are close to the River Thames where the main towns of Marlow and Henley on Thames are. There we can walk by the river or visit the River and Rowing Museum and have a go at what its like to scull on the river, without getting wet, whilst then wandering among some relics and artwork relating to the Thames journey to the sea. A day trip to Oxford could not be ignored to see the spires and colleges of one of the best Universities in the world, just 45 minutes from where I live. There are museums to visit, the Oxford Botanical Gardens and, if the weather is good, punting. Plenty of places to eat and drink here too.
Marlow and Henley have some great cafes and restaurants also but I would have to take my friend to the flower garnished village Bull & Butcher pub amongst the brick and flint cottages of Turville where Chitty Chitty Bang Bang was filmed and where I ring the bells in the local church just across from my studio. If my friend had energy after all the walking and tours we can always take the train to London for shows and shopping as we can easily be there and back in a day.

The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
I couldn’t be where I am today without the support of my husband and three children. They have put up with my obsession to photograph and talk about my photographing. The children when young have had to wait outside the darkroom until I was ready to come out and feed, play, talk, be with them. My husband has encouraged, advised and constructively critiqued my work, He offers space within the home to hang it – he even likes it! One of my daughters is a very willing and patient model. I have shared my successes and rejections with them and they have celebrated or commiserated with me. I feel fortunate to have a close family around me who are honest in their opinion of my work. Having a loving family is not a given in this world. I appreciate and value mine daily.

Website: www.racheljwallace.com

Instagram: @racheljayw

Other: www.farewellphotography.co.uk

Image Credits
rachel wallace

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