You’ve probably heard of or come across the I Still Shoot Film blog, well Rachel is the one behind it. As it turns out film isn’t dead and Rachel is making a living shooting film in Paris.
Tell us a little about yourself?
Hmmm…. I’m a photographer, I live in Paris and I have a super awesome dog. Things that I like include Chinese movies, baths, Patsy Cline, political fiction, general urban bustle and laying in the sun. Things that I don’t like include cooked fruit (can’t stand the texture), most romantic comedies, cloudy skies with no rain, people who say film is dead and people who don’t like animals. I grew up in DC, then I went to art school in New York, then 7 years ago I came to France for a three-month photography workshop…. and I still haven’t left.
What made you get into photography?
I took a darkroom photography class at summer camp when I was 10 years old. They gave us manual 35mm SLRs with black and white film inside to play around, then our counselor developed the film for us and sent us straight to printing. The moment I put a piece of paper in the developing tray and saw an image appear, I knew that I wanted to be a photographer. I think the fact that my first darkroom experience did not involve the boring technical aspect of correctly developing film made the process less intimidating and I just wanted to jump right in. My brother ended up giving me a Nikon FG for my birthday 6 months later, which I replaced with an FM2 body one year after that… and I still use my FM2 today, 19 years later. I always took photography classes in school, did independent studies and even taught a couple of darkroom classes. I think that going into adolescence there was no question about what I wanted to do with my life.
How did you get started?
After my infamous first-photography-summer, I continued taking pictures of everything all of the time… to the point that it became slightly irritating to the people around me. I started shooting my first nudes at 13, street portraits a little after that and studio work once I got to college. I was offered a scholarship to Pratt, but I ended up attending the photography program at the School of Visual Arts because, at the time, you got more darkroom hours at SVA.
What sort of photography do you mainly do?
I seriously hate this question- for me it’s another version of “What kind of photographer are you?” Personally, I am seriously obsessed with beautiful women which is obviously reflected in my work, but I am very attached to the idea of photographers from decades past. It’s only very recently that photographers have to be confined to a specific area of shooting. Greats like Richard Avedon shot high fashion for magazines like Vogue, some of the most iconic celebrity portraits in the history of photography, and incredibly moving documentary work. I don’t like to limit myself by saying I am only a “fashion” photographer. I do a lot of fashion and commercial work, but I also shoot street, documentary, portraits and fine art nudes.
What gear are you using?
I am primarily a film photographer. I learned on film, I love film and I feel comfortable shooting film. I shoot with my beloved Nikon FM2, a Kiev 88 and I often rent a Mamiya RZ67 for large jobs. I collect vintage cameras, I have over 50 with the oldest being manufactured in 1913. I use a lot of my vintage cameras for professional jobs, it’s part of my style. In terms of film I shoot a lot of Fuji Provia for portraits and fashion work, Fuji Velvia for landscapes and Ilford Pan F 50 for black and white. My light meter is a 10-year-old Sekonic Zoom-Master L-508; it’s a beast and still works as well as the day I bought it. I also use a Nikon D300S with the manual lenses from my FM2 for jobs that require digital.
When it comes to studio strobes I can go two ways…. If I’m shooting black and white, I always go for omnis because I shoot really, really, really fast. It saves time and money to have a continuous light instead of every other frame being black. If I’m shooting in color, I use Profotos (normally the Acute 2, but it changes sometimes) again because of my whole fast shooting syndrome. If strobes don’t have a fast recycle time, that’s a serious problem for me. I don’t airbrush or liquify in post-processing, so I like to use either soft natural light or hard studio light to get even skin tones. I am the queen of no softbox/no umbrella, which clients don’t always understand until they see the results.
Whats your favourite lens and why?
This is kind of like asking a mother which is her favorite child…. but I am very partial to the 50mm 1.8 Nikkor lens that I’ve had since I was 10. It was on the FG body that my brother gave me, I migrated it over to the FM2 and the Nikon-f bayonet mount works with my D300S. It was manufactured in the late 70’s and has very heavy glass so it gives a very soft yet crisp image.
How are you marketing yourself?
Obviously I have a website (www.rachelrebibo.com), a Twitter (@rbibophoto) and other profiles online. I do a lot of personal work, testing with models, new stylists and new makeup artists. Personal work is essential for keeping your book fresh and meeting new creative contacts. I send comp cards to editors and possible clients that I would like to work with. Whenever I meet a new contact in the industry, I always follow up and send my new work on a regular basis. I keep lots of marketing materials on hand, like various PDFs of different portfolios to send to people when they ask to see more of my work. The images on my website only represent a very small portion of my entire photography career. It’s also important to get out and meet people, network as much as possible.
Whats your favourite photo you have taken?
I’m sorry, there’s no way I can pick a favorite.
I had a look at Rachel’s portfolio and picked a favourite of mine
Advice for new photographers looking to go pro?
Do your own thing. There are way too many young photographers out there trying to jack someone else’s style. I had someone ask me the other day how to achieve Niel Krug’s colorful expired polaroid style because that’s how they want to shoot. I was like, “Here’s the thing: Niel Krug’s style is, um, Niel Krug’s. Why do you want to just copy someone else?” Photographers that are successful today are photographers that have their own voice. If you have something to say through your images, say it and don’t waver. Don’t adjust your style to fit with trends…. it just makes you get lost amidst the millions of other photographers that are doing the same thing.
I would also say grow some thick skin and grow it fast. People may hate or love your work, and you’ll never know which until they tell you straight to your face. You have to believe in your work regardless of what people say, while still being able to accept constructive criticism. A lot of photographers give up after too many “no” responses – to be successful you have to be one of the photographers who doesn’t.