Interview: Rachel J Turpin

One of the things I love most about photography, and how interconnected the world of photographers and artists is now, is that with just a few clicks, we can learn new techniques, new ways of seeing the world. And to this end, in 2017 I’ve decided to interview a few friends and people whose work I admire, to get a better understanding of other people’s techniques and motivations.

To start, Rachel J Turpin kindly answered a few questions for me, and shared her motivations behind her most recent work.

How did you get into photography? What was your first camera?

My family home is littered with family photo albums. Just full of them. I always used to love looking through them, and still do. I loved to be taken away into a place and time I’d never been, with people I’ll never know. My parents must have picked up on this fascination of mine – my first camera was this chunky blue Fisher-Price camera that I must have got for a birthday present as a young child.
Thinking back, this camera has definitely had a massive influence on my approach today – I’m still what some might call “snap-happy”, and adore my cheap plastic film cameras.

Do you have any major photography influences?

I believe the first photographers I really got into were the likes of Stephen Shore and Martin Parr. Though this evolved into following the more and more “everyday” photographers, as such I really take a lot from obscure photographers that pop up on Instagram and Flickr. For instance, I always love to sift through the work of Laura Kiora and the mirror closes the universe.

Though, speaking more generally, I am a painter by default, so a lot of my influences come from these sorts of fields in the fine arts too, and even from writers and philosophers. Everything is all very much connected for me.

What themes do you follow in your photography, if any? What do you feel unites your work?

I don’t really relate to formal themes as such, though I can say I’m drawn towards candid images that attempt to navigate reality, but also aren’t scared to play a little. This has generally meant that I love to see the camera being used as a paintbrush, rather than as a mechanical replicator of reality. If, apparently, photography can be considered a “window to reality” – I want to see what this window is, and what it’s really made of.


Which camera setup is your favourite, and why?

At present, I am most often found with my little 35mm panoramic point and shoot and an out-of-date film. Though, I have also commandeered some of my Dad’s vintage camera equipment recently, and have been experimenting with attaching a few old lenses onto my Nikon dSLR. The Helios 44-2 is definitely my favourite so far – wonderful experimental shots and an unbeatable bokeh. However, I’ve found they really require a great deal of patience and time to get the best out of a shot.

Among your work, which is your favourite shot and why?

Whilst every shot has its time and place, if I were to isolate them I think one of the few favourites I’ve taken this year would be this one.
This shows the underbelly of the Orwell Bridge, taken on a walk with my family on a brief visit back to Suffolk this summer. Part of the reason I find it so compelling is because it feels somewhat displaced amongst my usual style due to the detailed geometric attention, but still somehow resonates with my general focus of (the whimsy of) time and place.


Is there a technique or subject you’d like to explore, that you haven’t yet?

There is a technique I’d like to rediscover, which is the darkroom. I haven’t had the opportunity to process my own prints for around 5 years now, and is still something I miss everyday. It would be a privilege to regain full control of the entire artistic process sometime in the future.

What are your photography plans for 2017?

At present, all I can really say is that I am in the process of pulling together a website which I hope will give me an opportunity to showcase and focus my work. I’m also hoping it will enable me to consolidate my photography within the context of my painting, poetry and philosophy – that’s the ultimate goal, but one I may need more than just a year for.

Thanks very much Rachel – I think we have similar aesthetics, I’m enjoying the dreamy quality of your gallery very much, and we definitely agree on the use of the camera as a tool for seeing the world as you imagine it, rather than for pin-sharp exact reproduction. Getting back into printing is something on my wishlist too – maybe a good new year’s resolution? See more of Rachel’s work here.

If you’d like to share your thoughts on photography, or showcase your work at all, please do get in touch!

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