Coffee and Camera Chat with Rachel Demy

      Growing up I listened to Death Cab for Cutie what seems to have been every waking hour of every day. I feel as if the instrumental introduction to “I Will Possess Your Heart” is now engrained into my DNA. Recently I found yet another reason to be thankful for the lead man Benjamin Gibbard who not only granted me the tracks I have been listening to nearly every day of my life, but also for the introduction to his leading lady:, talented, creative type, analog documenter and self proclaimed professional roadie, Rachel Demy. Having purchased a third row ticket to the band’s show here in Chicago this past April I wondered if Rachel will be tagging along and if she would be crazy enough to meet with me for an interview. I constructed the least fan girl like email I could construct and shortly after heard back with a suggestion of coffee and camera talk. We met at and Intelligentsia Cafe Rachel suggested. I Already liked her from then on. I showed up an hour early to ensure I could collect myself enough to conduct an interview with someone I was feeling I would become a puddle of mush around. There I sat, chai tea latte, polaroid camera, notebook and pen in hand looking over the notes and questions I had been scribbling down since Rachel had emailed me back. In she came, the iconic cool girl to me. My phone buzzed as I sat in the back corner of the shop revealing an email that read, “Got in a little early. Wearing a grey rain coat. See you soon :)”. My main interest to meet with Rachel was due to her nearly insentient use of analog photography methods in a world where digital photography reigns supreme. We sat with our beverages and gushed over our love for the craft. When asked why it is she sticks to shooting on film Rachel stated,”it is what I know, it is what I am good at. Everything I get out of digital just isn’t as interesting”. Although she sticks to capturing moments on negatives herself, she worships works that have come to life via digital methods. Rachel suggested the documentary photographer Corey Arnold who captures his Alaskan fishing adventures through the lens of a DSLR. “It’s magic, it’s truly magic,” Rachel stated about our shared passion. Rachel expressed extreme excitement to step foot into her first darkroom experience after gaining access to such facilities in her new art studio in her new home of Seattle, Washington. I told Rachel about the first time I witnessed a photo of mine come to life before my very own eyes whilst basking in a tub of chemicals, magic indeed she said. “I love photographing on film because I feel like I get a few dozen Christmas’s a year. Every time I am waiting for my film to return from the lab it’s just like Christmas.”. She stole the words right of my mind, I thought. Just two photo nerds hanging out it felt as the interview went on. Rachel is completely self taught and did not undergo any professional training let alone a single photography class in her life. Rachel admits that the interest began when an ex gifted her a Pentax 1000 and turned to photography when becoming a tour manager. She turned to the camera dangling around her neck to document the life experiences she was having whilst living life on the constant go. “My photos became a journal of sorts. I literally just did not want to forget anything, none of it. I figured, “Hhey, I’ll just have it forever this way.”. She turned to documenting performers, surroundings, places and people to ensure memories did not get lost. Rachel expressed that she is most interested in capturing candid moments, “I am not at all into posing people in order to make the image I want, I have a hard time interjecting myself into moments in order to get what I want out of it. I am so much more interested in the natural looks and reactions and am fascinating in how that can change by the presence of a camera.”. Having recently returned from a tenth month tour alongside St.Vincent, Rachel admits that she is happy to be back in her Seattle home. Routine is now what she is finding appealing. She expressed that after so much time out of your own home and life patterns it almost begins to feel as if you are living out of your own skin. “I wake up and I think okay am I hungry? Do I eat? I have ten minutes to myself now. Do I shower?” When asked how this became a way of life for her, Rachel responded, ”I started going to shows when I was 13 and above all else I am just a lover of music.”. Rachel grew up in Portland, Oregon and left to attend the University of San Diego and study political science. There Rachel was exposed to an introductory world of chemistry where she admits her fascination with the “magic” of photography began. “My studies in other subjects really allowed me to understand aspects of my photo making and really gave me an eye.”. Although completely in love with the beauty of San Diego, Rachel said that the college became something completely different once joined by fellow students on the cliff dangling campus and was feeling out of her element. “I grew up not thinking about my body and then to be here it was completely overwhelmingly different.”. Rachel found the first guy walking around campus wearing a favorited band t-shirt and clung to him for companionship. A loss of a car in an accident ultimately led to Rachel returning to the Pacific Northwest. “”I figured, alright, I tried it but I can’t not have a car in Southern California and I really miss trees anyway. Sure I’ll go back.”. In 2007 she started her journey as a tour manager where she joined Richard Swift on the road. She continued this way of life for the next five years. I was sitting across from a total roadie rockstar. One of the biggest lessons learned through this way of life was how to have a servant’s heart, she says. Rachel was able to learn how to perform all ranges of tasks with a humbling and positive outlook on it all, whether it be fetching someone a drink or being offered once in a life time experiences. Since being home and back to a tamer way of life, Rachel is learning to be a bit of a servant to herself and has given herself time to be with her loves, whether they be cherished ones, her passion for running, good food and wine or catching a Sleater Kinney show at a Seattle bar. Whilst on the road Rachel was constantly making photographs. Some for her photographic life journal but also to document the artists’ lives:. Their performances, festivals, green rooms and other behind the scenes moments that take place whilst traveling with a musical act. Whilst performing her professional roadie duties, Rachel was introduced to another analog lover and photographer Autumn de Wilde whose photo books have a home on my coffee table. Autumn has photographed Jenny Lewis, Death Cab for Cutie and Lena Dunham and who now serves as Rachel’s photography mentor. “For my last birthday she gave me one of her original darkroom prints of Elliot Smith. It was so beautiful I just cried.”. Rachel continues live with her camera at her side and has archived negatives in her collection from St.Vincent rocking out on stage, to her romantic muse front man Benjamin Gibbard, a peanut butter sandwich she ate for lunch as well as the beautiful sceneries photographed on trail runs. I am so honored to have spent a few hours talking all things photography with such a charming, talented, powerful woman. Rachel even went so far as to still keep in touch via snail mail and sent me an original of my favorite one of her works. Follow along with Rachel’s photogenic life! http://racheldemy.com/

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