Briefly describe the work you do.
I am a fine art photographer making work about human experience, relationships, and place. My most recent and ongoing series, Between Home and Here investigates notions of home and family in my birth city Louisville, KY. Currently, I live in Dallas, TX and recently graduated with an MFA in photography from Texas Woman’s University. I received a BA in photography and painting from Bellarmine University in Louisville, KY.
Tell us about your background and how that has had an influence on your work and on you as an artist.
I grew up in a city I wanted to get out of (like a lot of young people) and thought that going to college was the only way to do so. I had always loved school and making art but never thought that the two would work together. In undergraduate school, I met my mentor Laura Hartford, who was (and still is) not only a profoundly inspirational artist, but also an outstanding educator. Before Laura, I never thought I could be in school and still be an artist. My experience as an undergraduate art student taught me that I had the potential to go to graduate school and not only grow as an artist, but also an educator. I made the big move from Kentucky to Texas where I got my MFA in photography at Texas Woman’s University. My graduate mentor, Susan kae Grant and all of my graduate program peers helped inspire and mold how I see myself as both an artist and teacher. Being both an artist and educator are important to me because my experience in school is what gave me the confidence to pursue art. When I was a freshman in college, my dad had converted my closet into a darkroom and birthday gifts turned into film and camera gear. My little sister (Taylor) frequently let me photograph her (patiently) when I was first exploring portraiture and still supports me a great deal. I am fortunate to have started with such a strong support system.
The concept of the artist studio has a broad range of meanings in contemporary practice. Artists may spend much of their time in the actual studio, or they may spend very little time in it. Tell us about your individual studio practice and how it differs from or is the same as traditional notions of “being in the studio.”
My actual studio is very minimalistic and is a space for printing, retouching, and sequencing. I spend time in my studio every day because it is a designated space that allows me to work and even if I am doodling shot ideas or editing an image, it is an environment that prompts me to be productive. I also keep my book and record collection in my studio which on occasion inspires ideas for new work but also allows for my studio to be a therapeutic space.
What roles do you find yourself playing that you may not have envisioned yourself in when you first started making art?
I never thought about how important being an educator would become for me. My decision to go to graduate school was for the opportunity to learn and grow more as an artist but also to be able to teach. Before, I had always identified as being an artist first and foremost. Now, I consider myself to be equal artist and educator but it can be difficult to balance the two. Sometimes I spend more time acting as one and other times the other. One of the most empowering things about being an educator is that I am surrounded by other creatives and am always learning from my students.
When do you find is the best time to make art? Do you set aside a specific time everyday or do you have to work whenever time allows?
Time management is a very important aspect of my work right now. Currently, I am based out of Dallas, TX and my ongoing work is based out of Louisville, KY. I specifically schedule times for traveling, shooting, editing, and printing. Sometimes, I only have a three day turn around between shooting and 30 hours of driving. Strict scheduling and working habits have helped to alleviate most of the stress from this working methodology. When I am not working on Between Home and Here, I spend my free time on printmaking and alternative photo process work. I try to do something every day, even if it’s something I end up not using.
How has your work changed in the past five years? How is it the same?
In a lot of ways and not in a lot of ways. Up until a couple years ago, I only photographed myself and now I do the opposite. I am still interested in self-portraiture, but am more interested in the people I am surrounded by. My style of shooting has always been partially intuitive and directed. Early on, I used to work very intuitively and during unconventional hours, but lately it is has been beneficial for me to maintain a more disciplined schedule. I find it interesting that my recent work revisits a place that I wanted to escape in my early work.
How have people such as family, friends, writers, philosophers, other artists or even pop icons had an impact on the work you do?
My biggest influences are my friends and family. There are not many baby photographs of my mother and I because she was constantly documenting my childhood. I was introduced to the camera at a very early age. The work I make is about my own life and loved ones so they are a great impact on who I am as an artist. I also greatly inspired by a number of contemporary photographers such as Lydia Panas, Laura Hartford, Ashley Kauschinger, Aaron Blum, Jennifer McClure, and Kelli Connell, to name a few..If I could go on, the list would be pages long. I photographed my little brother (Michael) for the first time last summer and he has turned into one of my most poignant muses. I find that I am especially fortunate to be surrounded by so many loved ones who happen to be talented artists as well.
Have you ever been pulled in the direction of a pursuit other than being an artist? What are your other interests?
If I wasn’t an artist I would have pursued medicine. I’m fascinated by science and the human body. Being able to help people and give back to a community as a doctor would have been an added bonus to being able to work in a field that is so intriguing to me. I am also very interested in literature, specifically creative writing and poetry. Writing is still very important to me and I try to write as much as I can in my spare time.
Rachael Banks is a Louisville, KY native and Dallas, TX resident. She received her MFA in photography from Texas Woman’s University and Bachelor of Arts degree in photography and painting at Bellarmine University in Louisville, KY.
Rachael Banks’ work deals heavily with personal human experience and explores notions of identity, place, and relationships. Her work has been shown nationally, regionally, and internationally and has been featured in Prism Magazine, Posi+Tive Magazine, Supersition Review, Feature Shoot, Lensculture, and have shown in exhibitions at PhotoPlace Gallery, Darkroom Gallery, The Center for Fine Art Photography, the Kinsey Institute, and online with Professional Women Photographers.
Currently, Rachael Banks is a working artist and adjunct photography professor in the DFW area of Texas.
All images copyright of the artist and used with their permission.