There are many, many photographers in New York City, and sadly, it's easy to fall into the shadows. One must have a distinct style to stand out and make an impact in the industry. Rachel Thalia's work is a ray of light that shines so brightly, causing all to look. Her fashion photography effortlessly blends elements of nature, creating characters that look like nature goddesses or mystical fairies. The photos are mesmerizing and magical, with just the right amount of drama.
SOCIAL DECAY: What was it about photography that drew you in as opposed to other art forms?
RACHEL THALIA I come from a family of painters so I was initially drawn to expressing myself that way. I eventually didn’t feel that I had the skill necessary to accurately express myself through painting or drawing, but was always interested in the human form as a subject. When I was young, photography became a way for me to not only reflect my surroundings but also to create my own reality and choose how the things around me should be seen. It was a way for me to be creative but different from my family in a whole new medium that felt like my very own. It felt like a new frontier and also a home.
SD: Through your work, it seems as though you have a deep connection with nature (beetles, butterflies, flowers)! How did this all come about?
RT: My connection with nature is more of an excitement and curiosity with something that I’m not the most familiar with. I grew up in a concrete jungle- in the middle of downtown Manhattan where pure nature is hard to come by. I always had a fascination with creatures and plants, and leaving my bubble in the city always felt like the biggest adventure. In my work, I have an affinity for tenderness and tranquility. I think that using nature in an image brings those themes out, both visually and conceptually.
SD: What influences have made you the photographer that you are today, with such a distinct style?
RT: Throughout my life I’ve been heavily influenced by pre-Raphaelite paintings and romanticism. I love the rich colors and the relationship with nature that the painters portrayed. The stories are also rich and the paintings are often deceptively beautiful and linked to some kind of tragic or strange story. My work often reflects this- the images are meant to be beautiful on the surface but also have something slightly unsettling or strange about them. I’ve also been influenced by moments in fashion that coincide with the art world- where the clothes are merely a tool to convey the story but are not the whole story. I feel that I’m more influenced by art and culture than I am by fashion, which is what makes my work in fashion a bit different.
SD: Do you have a favorite project or photo series to date?
RT: I think my favorite project so far has to be ‘Emily in Reverie’ which is a project I started for my thesis in college where I made portraits of a young girl. These images have the elements of fashion as well as fantasy with a hint of chaos and uncertainty. This project has become more important to me as time goes on, because I have been photographing Emily for a few years now and have documented her growing up, and in a sense I have grown up too.
SD: What gets you up and going when you're in a creative rut?
RT: When I’m in a creative rut, I just continue through it and shoot as much as I can. If I have no ideas, I get a team together for a test and just see what happens. I never want to be inactive for very long. Shooting anything at all helps get my creativity flowing- even if the images are bad, at least I’m working through ideas and trying things out.
SD: What's the most difficult part of your job?
RT: I think that it’s very tough for young photographers to prove themselves in this industry, and it’s hard to continue to stay positive. It can also be daunting to figure out your path when there are so many options. A ton of photographers are unsure of their talent and skill and end up being stuck in a career of assisting other photographers. You just have to make the leap, and remind yourself that you deserve to be here as much as everyone else does. You have to really push yourself to continue making your best work despite your setbacks, and to stay true to yourself as an artist.
SD:Any advice for young aspiring photographers trying to make it in NYC?
RT: Shoot as much as possible. Don’t get discouraged by the industry, work on honing in on your style and master your craft- and don’t expect to be rewarded immediately. It’s a tough industry and you’ll be working for a very long time to prove yourself. In the end, if making images that you love is worth all the obstacles, then you are on the right track.