By Ruby Love
Rachel Carlson is a senior at Evergreen, focusing her studies in photography, and graduating this quarter (congratulations, Rachel!) We talked with Rachel about how she got her start in photography, the evolution of her Basque Country series, and what her plans are for after graduation.
This issue features her black and white medium format photographs – selections from a series taken in 2015 in the Basque Country. For fall quarter of 2015, Carlson traveled to Europe “to do some museum studies, some art history stuff, and some photography in the Basque Country.” Partially tracing the path of her grandfather, who served in the Basque government and “was exiled to America twice through Cuba,” Carlson says that spending fall quarter in the Basque Country was a “self-discovery, and trying to learn more about my roots and my family.” Choosing to shoot on medium format film was part of Carlson’s work to connect herself to the past:
“I really liked the look of the film that I took because the format is older, and it looked maybe a little more vintage. It almost reminded me of the time period that I was searching to find out more about: a reflection of my journey and my desire to gain knowledge about that time period.”
Most of Carlson’s work focuses on documentary style, and she became interested in photography while working as a flyer girl for a local venue. When the venue put out a call for cover art for a compilation album, fifteen-year-old Carlson got to work:
“I took my bass guitar which was like sparkly blue…and I remember breaking up all of this blue glass, and cds, and all this stuff, and breaking it on the ground, and putting it around my bass guitar, and crawling on top of my dad’s minivan to try and take this picture with an instant camera…haha!”
Since then, Carlson has continued photographing musicians in the Puget Sound area, working with both film and digital. One of the challenges of shooting film is the time and effort of processing it all and sorting through each frame: “Honestly, I have hundreds of thousands of unprocessed photographs. Because I go out, and I do these documentary things, and I take so many pictures at events. I just have this massive body of work to work with… I still have a lot of stuff that I’m processing from [the Basque Country]. I’ve used some of them…you know, you just pick a few after skimming through and use them for whatever, and then go back.”
For Paris Muse, her current (and final) program at Evergreen, Carlson is working on putting together a book of her black and white photographs from the Basque Country. Inspired by a book of Atget’s street photographs she discovered as part of Paris Muse’s photography seminar, Carlson plans to “take my black and whites from San Sebastián and a few other places in the Basque Country – because part of the Basque Country is in France – so I’m going to do a Carlson’s Basque Country, as sort of a tribute book for one of my projects for graduating.”
After leaving Evergreen, Carlson plans on pursuing her MFA in photography at the University of Nevada, Reno. The program is all digital, requiring her to move away from “some of my favorites at Evergreen, which have been large, medium format photography and experimental stuff.” She is already trying out some digital video work, something UNR’s program requires, and is excited about exploring new territory.
If you’d like to see more of Rachel Carlson’s work, you can find her portfolio at RHCphotography.squarespace.com.