Power Of Images: Rachel Soh
Zayyar: Thanks for taking the time out for this interview Rachel. For those who may not know your background, could you give us a brief introduction into what you do and what you have done?
Rachel: Thanks for having me! I’m a freelance photographer that’s currently focused on music photography. I primarily travel and work for Bethel Music as their events photographer. I’ve dabbled in all sorts of photography over the years, from weddings to food.
Zayyar: How did you first become personally interested in photography?
Rachel: As soon as I started playing around with my parents’ crappy point and shoot camera as a kid, I was hooked. Although I don’t think I considered photography as a career till I was at least halfway through my university degree.
Zayyar: What’s your process like when working on a project? Do you have a criteria or specific workflow?
Rachel: I’ve had to learn the hard way that clear communication with clients is vital. From the get go, I make sure that expectations are set and understood on both ends. Including the budget, brief and deliverables. The shoots themselves will always differ and it’s impossible to predict exactly how they’ll go, so I just prepare the best I can. I have a fairly specific post production/editing workflow - from the way I import and organise my files to culling and colour grading. I am a detail oriented person so I’m one of those strange people that enjoys the editing process.
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Zayyar: You’re quite the traveller and seem to be in a new country every month, what are some of the pro’s with photography and travel?
Rachel: I absolutely love travelling. When I’m not working, I’m usually dreaming about or planning the next trip. My favourite thing about travelling as a photographer is that I’m able to experience new cultures and places through my lens. When you find the right balance, you can still be very present in the moment while documenting it simultaneously. It’s pretty amazing how work never feels like a chore when I’m travelling.
Zayyar: And for you whats the balance between work and fun when travelling?
Rachel: I used to put a lot of pressure on myself to constantly take photos even while I was travelling on vacation, to the point where I wasn’t fully enjoying my time. Although in saying that, there is a value in pushing yourself to keep creating, especially in the early stages when you’re trying to build your portfolio.
I’ve recently chosen to take only my film cameras with me on my personal trips. It’s forced me to slow down and truly have fun while travelling, without striving to capture every single moment. When I’m on assignment overseas, I make it a point to find the best coffee and food in that particular city. A good brew can make any travel day fun.
Zayyar: Where’s been your most favourite place you’ve visited, your least and where do you want to go the most?
Rachel: Tokyo. Hands down. No contest. I obsessively talk about that city all the time. Don’t even get me started, it can get nauseating quick. This may come as a surprise, but I’m not the most fond of Indonesia. I love the food and the people, but if I never returned, I wouldn’t be mad. Getting dengue fever and food poisoning the last two trips there might justify my distaste. India and Israel are the top of my list at the moment. They’re basically Disneyland for travel photographers.
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Zayyar: Let’s open up into the “why” you do the work you do. What do you really love about photography and the work you’re able to create?
Rachel: Whether I’m shooting images for a client with a brief and set deliverables or just photographing moments on my travels, there’s always an underlying purpose attached to the photos. Without trying to sound pretentious, I genuinely think that fundamentally, our job as photographers is to freeze moments in time. If we’re intentional about it, we’re essentially capturing history and telling stories through single frames. The significance of photography goes far beyond just taking “a pretty picture”. I love what I do because I know the potential it has to change minds and provoke thought.
Zayyar: If you were to meet Rachel 5 years ago what advice would you give her? It could be personal, business or creatively.
Rachel: Great question. I could probably talk to Rachel circa 2014 for hours, but these are my bullet points: Trust the process, comparison is a waste of time, and understand the distinctions in hard work vs. striving, excellence vs. perfection, and rest vs. laziness. Don’t be afraid to invest into necessary gear and travel. Never underestimate the importance of a contract, even with friends.
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Zayyar: For anyone that’s wanting your lifestyle of consistent travel and documenting stories - what would you tell them to get them on track?
Rachel: Whenever someone asks me a question along those lines, I almost always advise them to just keep shooting and staying inspired. To photograph the things that they’re passionate about or are interested in and to stay teachable. Reach out to people that are further along than you, study the work of great photographers. Unfortunately, there’s no ten step guide to success in this industry. You need to have the drive and patience to hone your craft and continue evolving.
I would also tell them to be smart with their finances so they can have the funds to travel more. One of my favourite quotes is: “If you want to be a better photographer - stand in front of more interesting stuff.”
Interview: Zayyar Win Thein
Photography: Rachel Soh, Brijana Cato