Today we’d like to introduce you to Rebekkah Drake.
Hi Rebekkah, please kick things off for us with an introduction to yourself and your story.
I grew up in the flat-lands, rolling prairies & suburbs surrounding Kansas City, Missouri. When I was fifteen, my dad gave me my first camera, a vintage 35mm. I immediately fell in love! I spent my teens shooting black and white film and developing it myself in the local darkroom. Learning to print my own photos felt like real-life magic, watching images appear from nothing!
I pretty quickly realized that making art was what I wanted to do with my life, so it was clear that I needed to be surrounded by more art and more artists, which for me, meant leaving the Midwest. I felt like my choices were either NYC or LA, and I wasn’t all that fond of the cold, so I packed up my little Mustang convertible and headed West. That was 20 years ago, and I’ve been here making art in this magical city ever since.
I arrived in LA when I was 19, bright-eyed and happy to be in a bigger city, ready to see where the wind would take me. I did whatever I could do to pay for rent, rolls of film, and to be able to go to shows with my friends. I waitressed, taught art classes, nannied, and more. In my time off, I took film and photography classes and in the evenings, I would go out and see music all over town with my 35mm camera by my side. Eventually, a friend’s band invited me to go on tour with them. By the end of that trip, I realized that I’d become a freelance photographer. My first paying clients were musician friends, paying me a little cash and a few tacos. I mean, who can turn down a free taco? In the beginning, I essentially said yes to any paying photo job I could get, and it turns out saying yes to everything is a great way to learn which jobs really aren’t for you!
I still primarily shot film for many years, but as digital cameras continued to improve, making the switch became the obvious choice. Collaborating with musicians, writers, actors, celebrities and other creative folk of all kinds has very much shaped how I approach my work. I love helping my clients and collaborators feel safe and cared for so we can explore, play, and make wonderful and weird things together.
Would you say it’s been a smooth road, and if not what are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced along the way?
The commercial photography world has historically favored male directors and photographers. I have moments where that has made me want to give up, but I can see the tide starting to turn. Girl Gaze is one organization that I’ve been so thankful for over the years. They’ve worked hard to lift women up & they continue to build a platform for better representation. That said, we still have a long way to go in the fight for equality in the photography & film industry.
The biggest challenge in my personal life has been navigating so much heartbreak and grief. Over the course of a couple of years, my husband and I lost both of our dads, our uncles, a grandparent, and some of our sweet pet family. To top all of that off, we were trying to have a baby during that stretch of time and suffered the heartbreak of multiple miscarriages. For a while, it felt like the sadness was never ending, but I knew deep down that I needed to keep looking for the beauty and joy tha.
My dad was a huge inspiration to me, and we were super close. He traveled the world when he was young, before starting a family, shooting film photos. He shot a lot of up-close portraits of the beautiful lines of expression in people’s faces & the many landscapes he visited. He and I were always cloud gazers together, and as a way to make something out of my grief, I started a series called “A Study of the Clouds.” I photographed images of the ever-changing canvas of clouds in the sky and also created my own colorful clouds with smoke bombs. I captured these photos all over the world, from the peaks and valleys of The Scottish Isles to the deep woods and lakes in the Ozarks of Missouri. This project gave me a way to process through some of the deep grief I was feeling while also honoring the magic of being alive. I feel like the clouds were my teachers, reminding me to keep finding lightness amidst the heaviness of heartbreak.
Thanks – so what else should our readers know about your work and what you’re currently focused on?
I am continuing to explore my creativity in lots of different ways. Right now, so many people are experiencing loss and grief because of the pandemic, and I think it’s more important than ever to continue to share kindness and vulnerability with each other. I believe art and beauty are essential in doing that. I strive to create a safe and compassionate space during my portrait sessions. I focus on gently holding the folks that come to me to feel seen and celebrated during huge transitional moments in their lives. During all the ups and downs, I try to guide my clients toward their most authentic and magical selves. I feel so lucky to get to work on such fun projects; book covers and album covers, high fashion shoots and personal portraits, all with such amazing people! I recently had the opportunity to direct some short films & music videos, which I look forward to sharing soon. I’m hopeful to continue to explore working with moving images.
Who else deserves credit in your story?
My family and friends have helped me so much, I wouldn’t be here without them. All the women artists that have gone before me and pathed the way to where I get to be today!
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Website: www.rebekkahdrake.com
- Instagram: @rebekkah_drake
All photos taken by me Rebekkah Drake