Originally from London, Rachel Beeson is photographer now based in Manchester, focusing on socially engaged photography that explores themes of identity, community, culture, and class. Her work is characterised by an ability to build rapport with her subjects, resulting in honest and authentic images that are both timeless and captivating. In this Q&A session, we have the opportunity to get to know Rachel better as she shares her journey, offers advice to aspiring photographers, and gives us a glimpse into her future goals and upcoming projects.
What initially drew you to photography, and how did you get started?
My dad wanted to be a photographer, something I only found when I started getting into photography professionally. I think it stemmed from there. We still have thousands of disposable photos at home from the both of us (back when film was lot cheaper!). It's just that perfect combination of things for me. I think I was always going to go into photography in some way.
How do you incorporate analogue film photography into your work?
I shoot all of my projects on film, and I made that decision when I was first starting out in photography. Film allowed me to limit myself to a set amount of images, so I could really focus on what I was photographing. I taught myself to use a darkroom, and since then I incorporate film in almost all of my work. I like the quality of film, but more so for me, it's that analogue process of photographing, processing and developing prints that keeps me interested in photography. It keeps me over-photographing so that the work I do create is still very personal to me. I still look forward to seeing the image come together in the darkroom.
How do you stay motivated and continue to find inspiration in your work?
My projects always stem from the people, culture and communities that surround me. I grew up witness to the incredibly interesting lives of people that don't typically get the spotlight, and photography is my way to do just that. A lot of my work has a political motivation behind it too. I grew up in an area that was increasingly subject to gentrification. One of my first projects 'Last of the London Racers' was on a racing stadium about to be knocked down in London. If I can't preserve these working class spaces, I can at least create an archive of them to ensure they are preserved in some way. So, for me, that motivation comes from tapping in to what I care about and creating work from there.
What tips would you give to someone just starting out in photography?
Don't put pressure on yourself if you feel like you don't have a good camera or that your pictures don't compare to others. The intention, the ideas and the motivation are what will ultimately get you there. You can learn all the other stuff. I think it can sometimes be a little daunting when you are first starting out, but my advice would to just be to go for it and to see what comes out of it. It can be really helpful to start out with the network you already have and to build from there. And one thing I learnt from talking to other photographers is that it's actually very common to go through periods where you don't make any work, and then periods when you are feeling very motivated. So don't get too down on yourself if you feel like it isn't coming together straight away.
What are some of your future photography goals and projects that you can tell us about?
I am working on two projects at the moment. One is a collaboration with people who identify as queer, photographing them in their home spaces. The second is a mentorship program with the photographer Craig Easton and several other photographers, where I have been photographing people who have been on strike. So that work is what I am focused on at the moment. I am about to finish my masters degree in photography, so my short term goal would be to start looking for a commission to work on a long term project around those themes. My future goal would be to create a body of work on culture and community, and to turn that work into a photo-book.
We hope that this Q&A session has given you a glimpse into the mind of this talented photographer, and that you are as inspired as we are by her work. We cannot wait to see what Rachel has in store for the future and we wish her all the best in her upcoming projects. To see more of her work, follow her progress, or inquire about hiring her, check out Rachel Beeson's website and instagram.