Happy 7 Year Anniversary, LA //

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(The photos above are of 17 year old me in 2009, just a month into living in Los Angeles. This is one of the most difficult but most needed articles I’ve ever written. This is my heart. This is me.)

7 years ago on this date, I moved from Florida to Los Angeles with just suitcase, a guitar, and big dreams intact. It has been truly incredible, experiencing my adult life fully in this city…watching and reflecting on the growth and radical change that has occurred from ages 17-24.

When I moved here in 2009, I had incredibly specific expectations for myself, and pretty much had the “10 year career plan” all figured out. If I’m being perfectly honest, it actually worked for the most part. But what confused me was my lack of happiness and fulfillment when I would reach a new milestone. This is where I learned that I had no choice but to grow and evolve. I learned that I wasn’t just placed on this earth to be a business person, but an artist. And the bits of type-A in me would have to wrestle with the wild, creative gypsy quite a bit, and quite ferociously. Who will win, the perfectionist or the free spirit?

Fast-forwarding a bit, around this time a year ago, the veil was torn and I realized my life was never going to be the same. That perhaps my wildest dreams and 10 year plan with great intentions wouldn’t come to fruition. That instead, my worst nightmares could…things I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy. Losing a husband, home, family, friends, pretty much every dime I had to my name. Every ounce of my being felt tested and torn. My spirit was drained. My energy was minuscule. My heart was shattered. My body and immune system were beginning to fail.

In survival mode for almost a year, I never really knew where I’d be sleeping. My car? A cheap motel? Thank GOD for the incredible friends who generously took me in, showing me radical love through couches to sleep on and meals in my stomach when I had gone days sometimes surviving on protein bars and lukewarm cans of soup. These were my worst, hardest, gut wrenching days. But guess what, friends? They made me a better woman. And that dreadful season did, as I prayed and begged, finally come to a close…allowing a new one to begin.

That season taught me to seek joy in the now. To find gratitude in the seemingly simple pleasures of life…my dog and her patience with me dragging her all around…my parent’s cozy red flannel I kept on for comfort and a sense of home…authentic friendships…fighting for myself…fighting for God. It taught me that I don’t have to be a perfectionist anymore, and when life doesn’t have to be perfect, perhaps it can finally be good.

Today, I am running my own “business.” Actually, as amazing as that is, I hate how it sounds. I am running my own art. I am creating in ways I never knew I was capable of. I am smiling. I am proud of the woman in the mirror. I have a non profit. I have a home again. I have beautiful, authentic friendships. I can’t believe, even now, that last year happened. That I pushed through. That I chose joy. That I still chose God. That I chose to create.

Through the years, and especially through last year, I was sanctified by fire, not scarred. I love the woman I’ve become because I know what it means to lose her. And I fought mightily to become her. I know what it means to cry out to God, scream with sobs and snot as I’m on the floor alone. Begging for peace. Begging for understanding. I love God because I know what it means to fight him. To doubt massively. Worst of all, to know he’s there but wonder if he cares at all that I’m slipping away.

The past 7 years didn’t kill me.
They didn’t amputate my purpose.
The last year didnt take me down, either.
Instead, my faith, dreams, and belief in God, myself, and others is stronger than ever.

Dreams don’t die. They do sometimes pause. Creativity takes a back seat when you are in survival mode and fighting for your life. But you can’t let it slip away. Oh, please, don’t ever let it slip away. I promise if you hold on, and it’ll be hard, and it will hurt like hell, it’s so worth the wait and the fight. Because you win yourself. You find yourself. You get your voice. You own truth.

I’m 24 years old now. I am completely flawed and absolutely human. I am an artist. I am weird. I am me. I know what redemption means because it happened to me. I know what grace is because it transformed my life.

My point of this anniversary rant is to tell you that while life may not always go according to plan, and a lot may change, if you remain faithful and keep fighting, you’ll see that you step out of survival mode and cultivate a life instead…

You will thrive, not just survive. Bring it on, February 2016.

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Then You Stand //

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Happy Sunday, sweet humans! Today, after spending this rainy morning doing some sketches, I decided to add a new product to my Etsy shop. This one is very close to my heart.

In your order, you will receive two 1.75″ x 7″ photo strips for $10 of this original line art by yours truly. “Then You Stand” is here to empower women. 50% of proceeds from each order will go to the Treasures organization, and their mission is to reach, restore, and equip women in the sex industry and victims of sex trafficking to live healthy, flourishing lives, and train others to do the same across the globe.

The reason I am including two photo strips in this collection is so that you can keep one and give the other to a woman who needs some encouragement. Grab yours by clicking here.

XO,
Rachael

The ZYX’s Book //

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The incredible Brian McCormack has created a minimalist children’s book on abstract thinking, and today, it is officially available! Grab your copy and hear what Brian has to say about this important and beautiful work of art below.

CLICK HERE TO PURCHASE

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Perception.

A malleable perception is our greatest ally towards building a better world.

Most of our problems, whether emotional or intellectual, can be evolved through the practice of a liquid perception. Seeing someone or something from a different angle or lens, if even for a moment, opens us to a world of understanding often different from our own – an act that inherently conjures empathy and growth, both personally and collectively. This is why I published The ZYX’s.

The ZYX’s is a child’s first book of abstract thinking, encouraging the memorization of the alphabet backwards. The book starts with Z and ends with A, each page displaying a minimalist sketch of a letter. On the other side of each letter’s page is the corresponding numerical place in the alphabet for that letter.

The alphabet is one of the first tools we acquire on our path to understanding each other and our culture. If we were taught to perceive our surroundings differently, I believe problems would be a bit easier to solve, friends would be a bit easier to make and people would be a bit more willing to accept differences, thereby fueled to go out and make one for themselves.

$17 + shipping
Paperback 6 x 9

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How To Shoot 4 Different Looks in a 30 Minute Mini-Session

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Mini sessions may seem quick, but they are plenty of time to capture what you want if you make the most of it. As a model and photographer, I can honestly say that whether you are in front of or behind the camera, my advice to you is the same…and I will be sharing it in today’s post!

Last Friday, I had the pleasure of photographing the lovely Emily Brooks. She booked a 30 minute session, and wasted no time. Which leads me to the first point…

1. Be prepared.
Model and photographer: maintain the vision. Show up knowing what you want to get out of the shoot, and show up on time. If you are the one with the camera, set up in advance. Be ready to go. If you are modeling, arrive camera ready. Bring your clothing changes and have your hair and makeup done.

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2. Just keep moving.
In the studio with Emily, I had a massive open space to work with. I didn’t stay in just one place. We utilized every inch of that place to create different backdrops and style. As far the model, Emily also had to keep moving. She allowed her body to relax, didn’t wait for my direction, and changed her poses and movements constantly. This makes it a lot more fun, and gives the model a wide variety of looks to choose from. No one wants to look at 60 shots that are exactly the same. This advice is also crucial when it comes to your clothing changes. To accomplish multiple looks in a brief mini session, you can’t waste time. Wear undergarments that are nude and go under all outfits.

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3. Passion.
This may seem a lot less practical, but it is crucial advice in capturing creative images you’ll love. As you may have seen in previous posts, I choose a word for everyone I photograph, and for Emily, it is passion. She watched as I ran around, happy to be there, eager to get as many shots as possible. This sweet lady, while changing into a gorgeous little black dress, looked at me and said, “It is so clear that this isn’t just a job for you. You are so passionate.” I can only say the same about her. Emily’s passion is refreshing. Don’t become jaded or bored with the “industry.” Hold onto the wonder, the joy, the art, the passion.

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Studio Session with Brittney Marie: GENTLENESS

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“Nothing is so strong as gentleness. Nothing is so gentle as real strength.”
-Ralph W. Sockman

I have decided to choose a word for each person I photograph, and for Brittney Marie, it was a simple decision. Gentleness.

This beautiful young woman walked gracefully and humbly into my downtown studio space yesterday with hope in her eyes, but little force or expectation. Where most people tell you what they want or expect to get out of their session, with a kind, genuine smile, she said she was just excited to be there and began by thanking me for having her.

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She effortlessly filled each bit of space with a much needed light and unique energy. Brittney was my last model in a long day of many back to back shoots, and something about her presence rejuvenated and refreshed me.

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This incredibly gorgeous woman told me that she usually just smiles in all her photos (and her smile is radiant), but she mentioned feeling hesitant about non-smiling pictures. I think we have enough proof that no matter what her facial expression, she remains stunning. Timeless. Breathtaking.

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There is a wondrous depth and wisdom to Brittney Marie, and it was an honor to photograph just a glimpse of this beauty. Gentleness is an underrated art. And I believe that this young woman has mastered it.

February Photo Shoot Special + FREE Photo Book

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To celebrate a season of love, I’m offering a special photo shoot deal right now through the month of February. Your $80 session includes a photo file with edited images plus a FREE photo album shipped straight to you. These shoots are all about love, whatever that means to you. So it applies to couples, engagements, boudoir, and sweet portraits just to honor and prioritize YOU. Show yourself some love this month.

Availability is limited, so contact me below and we’ll book your lovely session.

Palm Springs and Hot Tub Prayers //

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This week has been a beautiful and much needed change from the norm, with just a small trip from my city of Los Angeles to Palm Springs. My mind has been on overload recently…personally, professionally, and creatively. So there is something incredibly perfect about getting away into the middle of the desert.

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I’m still struggling to eloquently explain my thoughts on this city in the desert. There is so much beauty, and so much desolation. My soul has always been incredibly sensitive to the atmosphere, my surroundings…and to be perfectly honest, there is something a bit spiritually confusing to me about Palm Springs.

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A highway seems to do it’s best to separate the rich from the poor, the “good” part of town from the “less than.” Cookie cutter religious types stand in plazas with pamphlets, proudly sporting their “DARE” anti-drug shirts. Meanwhile, the parking lot crawls with tumbleweeds and quirky characters…almost like a scene out of “Breaking Bad.”

My incredible hotel deal I found was for Aqua Soleil, and while it is a bit off the beaten path and in the middle of nowhere, it is actually the perfect fit for this introvert in need of rest and rejuvenation.

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When I say “spiritually confusing”, I guess it’s because I do see and feel a lot around me. This brought me to an unexpected meditative moment of prayer last night as I was in the hot tub. (The great thing about traveling during weekdays and off seasons is that you get a tub all to yourself.) While enjoying the steam and relaxation, I was pondering religion, tradition, and practices. I began talking to God, praying and ranting (as I often do), and I decided that I wanted to be on my knees in this prayer. It never really struck me before, but it felt right. So, in the oddest of places, hot pink bikini and all, my knees hit the steps of the hot tub, body still mostly submerged, and that’s where I decided to pray.

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I was talking to God about how out of place I felt in most intentionally religious settings. I was telling him that I even felt that way in general spiritually…that when it feels forced, it just doesn’t seem to fit for me. I told him that I meant to make it out to Joshua Tree during this desert trip, to be silent, to read my bible, to pray, and mostly, to be really spiritual. Instead, my worship was in the hot tub in a bikini. This made me laugh and tear up all at once. “Am I just too stubborn?” I asked him. “Am I constantly failing? Will I ever be even a bit closer to perfect?”

Suddenly, I had the answers. My mind was on overload. “It isn’t about perfection. It never was. Just don’t be afraid to go deeper.” That’s what popped into my mind.

Don’t be afraid to go deeper.

I had to laugh at myself again as this occurred, because in front of my eyes in bold lettering inside the tub read, 3 1/2 FEET. I didn’t know how much deeper I could go in that moment on a grand scale, what huge leaps of faith I could conquer. But I did know I could go a tad deeper. So I jumped into the pool. It was a little cold, but refreshing…definitely worth it. Definitely deeper.

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Life isn’t about seeking perfection, striving for the flawless. Even in travel or vacation, I find so much meaning in the spiritual warfare that is real life.

Learning to enjoy insane winds and random rain. // To choose weakly wonderful coffee in a hotel room over a cocktail in some swanky tourist bar. // To feel more at home in a field of darkness, tumbleweeds, and litter than I would at the Hard Rock Hotel. //

It is in our recognition and appreciation of the weird, strange, beautiful, human glory that brings the depth that I think God wanted me to acknowledge. I didn’t need to be in a spotless world to find my getaway. The imperfections made it a perfect trip. The quirks and odd moments, people, and surroundings are what created the depth.

To wrap up my travel rant, one of our adventures (Brian and I) was finding the famous Palm Springs pink door. I was really excited about this (blogger moment), but now I am even more excited to be able to honestly say that I enjoyed the desert desolation and abandoned tumbleweed parking lots as much as I enjoyed the wealthy neighborhoods with breathtaking architecture and colorful doors. They compliment each other, really. And the darkness only helps me to appreciate the light even more, with an extended amount of depth.

We don’t connect through perfection.

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“Where there is ruin, there is hope for treasure.”-Rumi

FREE Pre-Shoot Styling Consultation

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Ever want the photo shoot for your brand, fashion, or personal life to stand out but don’t know how? For the month of January, I am offering a free pre-shoot styling consultation for every session booked. During this in depth chat, we will discuss location, color scheme, what to wear, hair & makeup, how to prepare, props, accessories, and how to make it uniquely you. Images can tell a story. Contact me below and let’s get started on yours.

Couples of 2 0 1 5 //

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Can I be perfectly honest? I never thought that “couples photography” would be my thing. At. All. I enjoy a good love story as much as the next gal, but I have a low tolerance for cheesy, forced, awkwardly posed prom-style romance. That being said, living in Los Angeles has been an incredibly growing experience for me, because the couples I meet and photograph are so unique. It’s also been such a great adventure to watch these sweet humans who are genuinely happy to be there together…the women aren’t dragging their man to the shoot. It never feels like a chore…it just feels like connection.

Since around Christmas time, it seems that the social media world has been overflowing with one common gift: love. It even got me snapping photos of the lovebirds. Oh yes, friends…it is definitely in the air. With engagement season in full bloom, I have been seeing post after post of beautiful humans connecting in life together. All of the joy and excitement caused me to go back through the incredible power couples I had the honor of photographing in 2015. This post is my shout-out to the authentic team-mates who are absolutely rocking it individually and as a unit.

KIM & SPIKE //
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These two humans are incredibly unique. Their talent and creativity shines through various forms (writing, adventuring, cooking, and more). It was such a pleasure to be a part of a photo-shoot experience where the woman was literally sparkling, and the man was cracking me up the entire time. It is such an honor to be around people who are so authentic and fun!

BETHANY & MARCOS //
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It was an absolute gift to me just to capture this beautiful family. When I am in the presence of Bethany, Marcos, and sweet little Sariya, one word is defined on a whole new level: joy. Pure joy. Bethany has a gentle yet strong grace and way about her. She absolutely radiates inside and out. Marcos is the kind of man who can’t stop smiling at his two ladies the entire time, and even insists that Bethany and Sariya have photos of just them. Then, he sits back, gazes at these ladies in absolute wonder, and let’s be honest…I was doing the exact same thing.

JESSICA & PEDRO //
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It was all about light with these two. Truly. And I’m not just talking about the insanely perfect golden-hour sunset we played around in. Jessica and Pedro have a heart for making a positive impact in this generation, and they will be adding a new addition to their world-changing family, as their baby boy will be here very soon!

REYNA & CHRIS //
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These creative entrepreneurs give me hope and courage on my own journey. Reyna and Chris selflessly prayed for me at the end of their session, and filled a busy work weekend of shooting with grace and love. I am beyond grateful for these two incredible human beings. What a powerful light their love and marriage is for me and so many others.

***If you want to book a couples or engagement session for 2015, contact me below! Let’s capture authenticity and have some fun.