Jen Rachid Interview: Lady-Like Portraits Capturing the Effortless Beauty Found Inside Us All

Jen Rachid

When I asked Austin based fashion/portrait photographer Jen Rachid to explain why she calls her portraits “Lady-Like”, she told me it was because she could tell that they were taken by a woman. And that her images expressed a certain softness in their natural diffusive light and understated tones. I would have to agree with her. The images of Jen are undeniably intimate and, yes, soft.

They remind me of those quiet hugs between friends. Friends who know each other enough to stop worrying about how they look or how they seem. People comfortable in their own skin. Images of Jen capture these small gestures of trust. They exude effortless beauty, the portrait like a hug meaning more than its touch but keeping its depth unsaid, knowing some things are too meaningful for words.

In this interview, Jen talks about her Lady-Like portraiture, explains how this philosophy impacts her work, and reveals her artistic influences.

Lady Like portraiture

I like your approach to portraiture. How did you get your start in portrait photography?

I have always been interested in people. I didn’t really realize until recently that I was taking so many portraits until I started to examine the body of work I have collected. The start: I met a dear friend who shared a loved for photography in a conflict mediation class and I took her portrait in 2011, after that I just didn’t stop.

portrait photography

You say your photography is Lady-Like. Could you explain what this term means and how it influences your work?

Lady-Like for me is a way for me to unabashedly show off that I predominantly photograph women. I understand their bodies and concerns, I shoot what I know. My work is feminine and I think you can tell the pictures are taken by a woman. There is a certain softness present. I have and do take pictures of the guys in my life, but right now I suppose I am in a way more intrigued by women, and their gentle power.

predominantly photograph women

Your portraits are understated. They’re free of stressed posing and overdone expressions. Why do you think you’re attracted to this sort of approach?

Thank you! I don’t know, I just kind of jump in, it is the way I operate. If I over think anything I psyche myself out, so I am that way when I take pictures. I usually know right away when I meet someone where or how I want to photograph them and I listen to my hunches. If while I am shooting a pose feels forced or looks uncomfortable, I will have my subject shake it out –people are always envious of an effortless beauty, to me everyone is one.

portraits are understated

How are you able to get these wonderful expressions from the people you photograph?

Luckily I have been able to make everyone feel comfortable which helps to avoid a premeditated pose. People sometimes ask me what I want them to do and I tend to give them a little direction then I just anticipate and try to get the moment in between. The moments that they are just there and not thinking about what I want them to do.

premeditated pose

You also seem drawn to natural light. Portrait #6 is a great example of this preference. Could you explain your typical lighting setup? What are the artistic benefits afforded to natural lighting?

I am starting to notice how much I am an au naturel kind of girl. We mainly see others in natural light, it is what looks most real to me, I am not a huge fan of white light. They tend to give me headaches. I would always have to request to be sat near a window in school to avoid the fluorescent flicker. There are times when studio lighting is great, but I just love the glow of natural light, people respond better to it, it is everywhere and free, and allows for much freedom and experimentation as long as the light is not flat.

fluorescent flicker

My favorite portrait is #5. It seems like you’re using a hot light from screen right. Could you explain how this shot was made from start to finish?

It was actually taken on my driveway, lately I have really been into doing night shoots, almost as a challenge to myself that I can use and enjoy the look of a strobe. In this case I used my car angling it on the driveway allowing it to be more of a directional light and showing off her profile without it being taken from the side of her.

favorite portrait

I like that your portraits illuminate unique and vibrant personalities, personalities sometimes ignored by conventional fashion photography. Would you consider your portraits subversive?

I wouldn’t say subversive, but then again the most the exotic person can see themselves as plain. I take pictures of whoever is in my life that will let me. People that I have photographed are subversive in that they are truly interesting, talented, and humble.

truly interesting

You’re based in Austin. What is the photography scene like in Austin?

It’s a mixed bag as with anywhere else. There is not an incredibly large photography scene in Austin as there is in Houston, but there are some really great new-age fashion and conceptual photographers doing their thing here.

incredibly large photography

What are your greatest influences? Favorite photographers, writers, musicians, poets, etc?

My influences change according to time and mood. I am always influenced by the miracle and peculiarity of nature and human nature. As for photographers I will limit myself to five: Irving Penn, Regina Relang, Nan Goldin, Cindy Sherman, and Man Ray. Tom Robbins never fails to stir me. I recently listened to an absolutely stunning short story by Jenny Hollowell’s A History of Everything, Including You. Many of my friends are talented musicians, all with different sounds: Hikes, Holiday Mountain, Milezo and Corduroi.

Jenny Hollowell's

Be sure to check out all the work of Jen on her website!

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