10 minute interview with Rachel baker photography
4 November 2015
I first heard of Rachel Baker at a Baby Kids Market probably around the time my 4 year old was born. I vaguely remember this beautiful lady full of warmth handing me a brochure about her photography for newborns. I remember reading about her work in the brochure how she is a nurse but since having kids decided to dedicate more of her time to doing the other thing she loved doing which was photography. Photography was always something that I had wanted to learn but had somehow escaped me with all the other things I had to do in life. I have never told Rachel this but I truly think in some ways reading about her journey had put a little spark into me beginning mine. Of course, a few years later, I finally met Rachel properly through the Hobart Mums' Network's Business Connect group and I am blessed to have such a beautiful presence in my life who I can now call a friend. I've watched Rachel transform her business from photographing children to photographing women. I love that through photography she is able to inspire and empower women just like me. Rachel, I am truly honoured that you allowed us a glimpse into the magical world that you live in, the beauty that surrounds your family, your home, and your animals is a true reflection of the beauty and strength that I see every time I come into contact with you.
MD: Rachel, thank you so much for taking the time to share with my readers what your business is all about. So, tell me, who is Rachel Baker Photography?
RB: Well, to put it simply, Rachel Baker Photography is a women’s portrait photography business. But it is so much more than that. It is my way of connecting with women, of showing them how absolutely gorgeous they are. Of helping lift their confidence and also giving them high quality prints that they can have up on the walls of their home, and that their grandchildren and great grandchildren can look at to see what they were like as they are now.
MD: We've never really talked about it but I can clearly remember the time when you decided to change the direction of your business into women's portrait photography. We didn't know each other on a personal level then but I remember very distinctly the online discussions that were going on about this change of direction for you. I had a very strong sense then that it was about much more than just photographing a different subject. There was a powerful transformation happening, I couldn't quite put my finger on it then, and it wasn't just about transforming your business, it felt to me like a transformation of self. So, who is Rachel Baker?
RB: Well, I am a 31 year old woman with lots of different roles! I am a mother to two little girls who inspire and challenge me daily. I am a wife, a photographer, a palliative care nurse, a farmer, an adventurer, a traveller. I am a firm believer in making the most out of life so I try and cram as much as I can into the years that I have!
MD: I can clearly see that just spending a day with you during our photo shoot. You have so much going on but you are always so calm and collected. I think it's the nurse in you! So, what made you get into photography?
RB: I actually started out with photography way before I turned to nursing! I studied photography at college and wanted to continue with it, but after finishing school I worked in a couple of call centres for a while. Then I went off to see the world, and when I returned from my travels I found a job in aged care which led me to study nursing. I noticed over the last few years of nursing that I am drawn to my patients stories, my favourite part of my ‘day job’ is getting to know people on a level that you don’t get to do normally. That re-inspired my love of photography as a way of story-telling and here we are!
MD: Photography is such a powerful way of connecting with people on such a deep level. I find it quite confronting on either side of the camera. It's so much more than just capturing a pleasing image and I think to photograph women requires you to have a strong sense of self and insight into how the women you are photographing may be feeling. I know that you have a very strong sense of self but does using your own name as the business name put extra pressures on making sure that your reflect this in your brand? You do this very well, by the way, but knowing that you are someone who takes pride in your work, does it mean that you have to really make sure that you remind authentic?
RB: Yes and no! I chose to use my name for practical reasons really, so that even if I changed direction with my style or genre of photography my business name could remain the same. It took me by surprise the first time I was introduced to someone who said “are you THE Rachel Baker? As in the photographer?”. From then on I have been aware that I am constantly representing my brand whenever I tell someone my name. I tend to dress in a way that represents how I want the women I photograph to feel – confident and happy. And I try to be kind to everyone I meet anyway so I don’t think there’s too much pressure that comes from using my own name!
MD: That is the mark of a truly authentic person! I know I struggle sometimes to remain authentic in my work as a manager at the hearing centres and I certainly struggle with making sure that I live by what I've been blogging about to stay calm as a mother so I really commend you for being able to be yourself in life and in your business. It is a remarkable achievement. So, tell me about this change from newborn photography to inspiring women through photography?
RB: Okay, this is a bit of a long story!
MD: Oh, I love long stories...
RB: When I was a teenager I had a really rough time with life. I had very low self-esteem, I had been bullied for years and it continued despite moving schools and even states. I had a few years where things were really hard for me psychologically and I couldn’t ever imagine myself making it past about 18 years old. I didn’t think I had it in me to be a functioning adult I guess.
When I left school things improved a bit, but my low self-esteem continued. I can remember having to call in sick to work on more than one occasion because I just couldn’t bring myself to leave the house. I hated the way I looked and pretty much everything about myself.
Then I started travelling and started to gain more confidence. I went to Europe by myself for 3 months when I was 21. There’s something magical about travel, especially by yourself. For a start – no one knows you. You can pick a country and go there and be whoever you want. And I learnt that I could pretend to be a confident person quite successfully. When I came home I realised that I could do that here too – fake it till you make it, right? Eventually the confidence became a bit more real for me.
MD: Yes! I wish someone had told me this when I was younger... Be the change you want to become...
RB: So, I met my husband and my opinion of myself changed a lot – someone else saw me as perfect and loved me for who I was, inside and out. And then we had our first daughter. And I held that tiny little baby and I knew that it would break my heart if I ever had to see her go through the things that I did. If her sweet little voice ever said “I hate myself”, it would just shatter me. I never, ever, wanted her to feel the way I did. Then,18 months later we had our second daughter and I felt exactly the same way. My children are utterly perfect, and I never want them to feel any less than that about themselves.
MD: I am totally hearing what you are saying having two daughters myself...
RB: So when my youngest was a few months old I launched my photography business. It did start out as a newborn photography business because it was what I was familiar with. Over time though, it has developed into what Rachel Baker Photography is now. I heard so many new mothers tell me that they couldn’t have a photo with their perfect little baby because of x, y or z. Because they weren’t pretty enough, or skinny enough, or they looked too tired. Or a hundred other reasons. And I soaked all those combined stories in and realised that it was what I was meant to be doing. I am meant to be showing women that they are amazing.
MD: Do you think that taking this step to acknowledge this insecurity we all have as women in your business also helped you on a personal level?
RB: It is hard, gosh it’s hard. I have worked so hard on changing my own inner voice and the words I use to talk about myself. I am at a point now where I am happy being me. I love who I am and I love the role model I am for my children. The messages that we receive as women are horrendous. The number of times I have had to talk to my girls about something they have heard from other adults or in the media, negative comments about bodies or people placing values on other people based on looks. They haven’t heard these things from me before and they are always surprised when they hear another adult talking about themselves negatively. It is so ingrained into us that it’s not okay to celebrate how awesome we are, we are taught from such a young age that we should focus on our flaws. I just want to be able to show the women that I photograph that the happiness that shines from their eyes, the little quirks in their smile, the way they look when they laugh… these are the things that their loved ones will remember. Not their so called “flaws”.
MD: You are so right. I haven't thought about it like this to that level. The fact that the way I talk about myself, my "flaws" impacts on how my girls might view themselves. Thank you for giving me that insight. Something to aspire to... Is this related to the idea of making the temporary dress for your clients? That is so unique!
RB: This was inspired by a couple of things! Firstly I went to a photography seminar and saw a presentation by an amazing photographer called Jennifer Thoreson. Her work sung to me, it still gives me goosebumps when I look at her art. During the presentation, she photographed a model, and she had just used a bit of fabric to drape around her as the outfit. It took away all that extra stuff that comes from clothes. The focus was entirely on the models expression and the story that was being told in the photograph.
MD: Love it! Peeling back the layers to find who we really are...
RB: The other thing that inspired it was the realisation that women want to feel beautiful, especially when being photographed. But not every woman owns an evening gown that makes them feel like a princess. So I practiced on my sister (thanks Chloe!) and taught myself how to take lengths of fabric and pin them in a way that they look like a proper dress. It also means that I can shape it perfectly around the woman I am working with so that it is flattering for her and hides any areas that she doesn’t want emphasised. I love the temporary nature of it, too. Working in palliative care, I have become so aware of the impermanence of everything. I like the way this beautiful gown exists only for that woman on that day, and after the photographs are taken then it becomes just a pile of fabric again. It’s special that it existed just for them.
MD: That is such a beautiful concept. A photography session to explore oneself and to give homage to the present moment. What are you "really" trying to achieve in your business? You always seem to me to have a higher purpose in everything that you do.
RB: I wish that I could change the way women talk about themselves. I wish that by photographing women I could show them the truth about themselves and that they could love themselves better. That’s a pretty big ask though, isn’t it! I guess ultimately if I can give the women I work with a confidence boost and photographs of themselves as they are now, so they can look back in a few years time and remember, I think I would call that success for me.
MD: What have been some of your favourite moments at Rachel Baker Photography?
RB: Every time I show a woman her gallery of images, I hold my breath in anticipation and a bit of nervousness. And then, when she tells me that she loves them and she can’t believe how beautiful she looks… that moment there, every time, is my favourite one. Knowing that she is seeing herself the way that the people who love her see her, that is amazing.
MD: To allow yourself to be vulnerable shows true strength of character, like you getting nervous presenting your work to your clients even though a little birdie told me you are an award winning photographer! I love that you allow yourself that, to be vulnerable is to let people in, and only then can we truly appreciate each other's beauty. So, tell me... What is your vision for your brand going forward?
RB: I would love for Rachel Baker Photography to become synonymous with women’s beauty portraits. To really stand out as the person to come to in Tasmania when you’re not feeling the best about yourself, or if you want to help your friend, daughter, sister, or partner feel better about themselves. That is what I am aiming for!
MD: I think you absolutely have achieved that. What is the one advice you would give to other mums in business?
RB: Listen to your heart. Yes, your business needs you. Your children are only little for a short time. Ignore all the millions of online articles about the perfect work-life balance, and how working mothers are terrible, and stay at home mothers are terrible, and all the other rubbish. Just trust yourself. Do what is right for you and your family in each moment, each day. Sometimes, you have to take a day off to snuggle a sick baby. Sometimes, you pop your little person in front of the TV so you can just get something done. It is all okay. You’ve got this.
MD: So well said. Work life balance, there is no such thing. There is simply life. I know as women, and as a mother especially, it’s really hard to do anything for ourselves. For me personally, I get quite self conscious in front of the camera. What would you say to woman who may be thinking about a portrait session?
RB: I would say, do it! Exist in photos. In my palliative care work, I have spent a lot of time being with people who are dying. I have heard their regrets and listened to the things they wish they had done differently. And do you know something? So many of the regrets people have are about not spending enough time with their loved ones, and about not enjoying their life more while they could. This is why I think it’s so important to make the most of every day. Be in photos for your family, your children, yourself. It’s a way of proving that you were here, that you made the most of the time you had. It’s something for you to look back on one day and be reminded of how amazing you are, of how much sparkle you have in your soul. Of how wonderful you really are!
MD: Thank you so much for inspiring me today, Rachel!
STAY CONNECTED, FOR THE LATEST MD NEWS & EVENTS: