Have you ever looked at someone on the street and thought, how is she pulling that off? WHERE did she get those shoes, and how did she put it all together like that? Or maybe a girl in your philosophy class raises her hand and asks the most thought-provoking question and you think, “I need to start reading what she’s reading.”
Insert: Can I Be Her? We’re starting conversations with the coolest people we can find to ask, basically, how did you get to be so cool? Read on for an interview with Rachel Waters and a look at what it’s like to be a 20-something photographer and entrepreneur in Oklahoma City.
Describe your aesthetic:
I want to be a French girl, but I also want to be a badass rebel.
Talk to me a little about being a photographer in OKC:
It is hard being a creative entrepreneur in Oklahoma City where it feels like 25 new wedding photographers pop up every night. With the accessibility of presets and other tools, there’s so much more competition than there was three or four years ago. I truly value community over competition, but at the end of the day, you are kind of competing for clients. With that said, I never thought that I would be successful as a photographer. This was my dream; I didn’t think it would happen but it did. And it can for anyone if they really work at it.
That would be my advice to new photographers — keep working at it. And be yourself. Be your-freaking-self. The lack of individuality is one of my issues with the wedding industry. It is so hard to find a wedding photographer that really stands out because everyone’s going after the same ”look.”
I encourage photographers to let people see how you really are. Do the weird stuff! Shoot the things you really want to shoot. Let your particular style and eye shine.
Honest + Kind (a wedding collective for the nontraditional bride Rachel co-founded this spring) has been huge for my growth this year. I have all kinds of big, impossible, crazy dreams for it. It’s been weird to envelope so many people and so many industries into one setting. But it’s ultimately been so rewarding getting to work with other people and creatives, even just getting out of the house for meetings. It’s given me the opportunity to get out of my creativity comfort zone with styling and planning and coordinating. It’s a blast.
What inspires you? Where do you find that and how do you prioritize it?
I try to find inspiration from places outside of the things I’m working on. I don’t follow a ton of wedding photographers or photographers in general. My general rule is: I’ll follow them if their work inspires me and if they genuinely interest me as a person. I’m super inspired by food: new recipes, cooking, trying new things. I’d love to get into styling and photographing food. Eventually writing a cookbook is one of my dreams.
Visually I get a lot of it from Instagram. *laughs* I need to get out more.
I’m working on the prioritizing inspiration part. I try to start my day in an inspired mindset — that’s one of the first things I do when I wake up and one of the last things before I go to bed. It can be Pinterest, reading, writing. I need to prioritize it more because that’s what keeps me going.
I usually have to get super inspired to get on an editing kick. I need upbeat music or jazz.
How would you describe your personal style?
Now that I have pink hair, I’m much more conscious of what I’m wearing. My style has minimized and toned down. I’m drawn to neutrals and black and white patterns.
I’m trying to do a capsule wardrobe, but that’s pretty much impossible. Theoretically I could live out of just the clothes that fit in a suitcase, but I just keep finding other stuff I like.
Are you following anyone on the internet that you think everyone should follow?
Honestly, @victoriakenzie. (Hello, that’s me. Conducting the interview.) My friend Nicole Seligman (@writeslikeagirl) is incredible. I’m obsessed with Sarah Nsikak (@stoneandharper). Sarah is just the dreamgirl for everyone; I think we all want to be her. Ethan Hickerson (@ethandoesthings); I have mad, mad, mad respect and admiration for everything he puts out—photo-wise and life-wise. Also happy to call him a dear friend of mine. For photographic inspiration, Jimmy Marble, Ben Sasso, and Katch Silva.
I actually just minimized the people I follow because I was getting too obsessed. That happens sometimes.
Are there any books that you love or go back to over and over again?
*Immediately blurts* Harry Potter! But I’ll try not to get into that right now.
There are a lot of books that have shaped who I am. Song of Myself by Walt Whitman was the first thing that ever made me love American lit.
And I was really inspired by the Sound and the Fury [by William Faulkner]. That’s one of the books that made me think. Anything by Mary Oliver.
Oh, and The Perks of Being a Wallflower profoundly impacted 17-year-old me.
What are your all-time favorite artists/albums?
Ah this is too hard! Okay, I love Justin Vernon [Bon Iver]. Anything he touches. If I could combine all of Bon Iver’s album into one favorite, I’d pick that. They all move me in a very similar way, but for different reasons.
I love Chance the Rapper’s Acid Rap. That album hypes me up. I could literally listen to it anytime.
As Tall As Lions is one of my very favorite bands. I would literally not be the person I am today if I wasn’t a fan of theirs. Lots of my history is connected to them.
Do you have any important routines that you follow?
Okay, I’m going to describe this to you like it’s a real thing. I’ve never actually successfully done this routine, but I’m going to start tomorrow, promise. This is my ideal day. I wake up, do a little stretching, some yoga, then I meditate for 10 or 15 minutes. I go and get coffee (even in my idealized day I know I won’t make it at home. I should.)
Then I’ll start on the Big Three, the three most important things I need to do that day. I’ll work on emails for about an hour, and take a social media break before lunch (in this ideal day I haven’t checked my phone at all yet). I’ll take a lunch break, and hang out with my dogs.
In the afternoon I get into serious editing, culling, or web flows. The big things I need to do. Then, depending on the day, I’ll work on the Big Three some more, or just on emails. Then I’d cook dinner (instead of spending $30 on Postmates Thai food), watch Netflix, read a little, and fall asleep by 11.
Man, that’s the perfect day.
Where do you typically shop/think to look for clothes?
I’m a sales rack and thrift store kinda girl, but Madewell is everything if I’m feeling splurge-y. I like some of the things ASOS produces. *Looks down* I’m wearing all Target right now? They are great.
How do you find out about new things?
*Laughs* Probably Twitter. I get all my news from Twitter. I feel like Twitter is the way you get to be viral. Everything starts there.
How about magazines? Podcasts?
I’m into podcasts! I just got into them recently. I love true crime podcasts — all true crime podcasts. I don’t know that I’d want to be Jenna Kutcher’s best friend, but I think the Goal Digger podcast is a great resource.
Photography: Patricia Miller
Design: Curry Campbell