Rachel E Joy Stanley
University: Goldsmiths, University of London
Artist Statement: Rachel E Joy Stanley is a fine-art photographer based in London. A recent Goldsmiths graduate, her work is about people — how they create and occupy spaces, and the traces they leave behind. Rachel's photographs are largely observational and attempt to organise and make sense of contemporary life, asking questions about power, ownership and the balance between natural and human worlds.
What are some standout moments from your time at university? Taking pictures all the time! I got through a lot of film cameras and spent a lot of time taking my pictures to be developed over those three years. I didn’t love my course so I don’t have too many academic standout moments, but in my final year I taught myself how to use InDesign and made a series of books based on the sequencing of images. I loved the process of creating something which could be held and kept. You can take a look at Different but the Same here.
What themes do you find yourself exploring? Space is a theme which all my work ultimately focuses on, along with design, architecture, minimalism, form and function.
What initially inspired you to make this work? I did not exactly intend to start making the work, it was more of a case that when I took a step back and tried to work out what my work was really about that I came to realise its common themes. My photographs attempt to organise the world around me. I see London as hectic and grey, but through my work I organise and change the city into something totally different, where everything is nice. In some ways I am appropriating my environment and making it into an ideal world. There is no real inspiration behind this, it is just a natural reaction of mine – to take something which hurts my head and try to make it good.
Who visually inspired you when making this work? There are a number of people who generally inspire me such as Wolfgang Tillmans, John Pawson and Rachel Whiteread but with this body of work my inspiration has been more material or design focused, looking at the shapes or textures of things.
What's important to you about space and the way humans occupy it? Why did you want to explore this through photography? I suppose I just find the world we live in very strange and I am conscious of how we have constructed a world as if it exists only for us. It is amazing and horrifying. I particularly notice it living in a city like London, travelling around and seeing how the train stations were built to organise traffic flows of people, or walking through a park in which nature is confined to a small grassy space. My work definitely comments on our anthropocentric environment, but with this awareness also comes an appreciation for humans and our innovation and design abilities. This is key to my practice; I don’t want my work to be political. My work is inherently about things being simple and satisfying to look at.
Where are the spaces in your images? Are they important locations to you? I take my camera with me wherever I go, so perhaps the locations aren’t actually all that important because I don’t visit them, I just become aware of them. However, more recently I have been going to spaces specifically for their relevance to my Minimal Space project. For example I have taken trips to places solely to photograph a concrete staircase, or an interesting bench. These images are planned and are more a case of using the camera as a tool to explore design and architecture, so here the locations are important.
Is your choice of equipment important to your way of working? It is important to me that the camera is small, light and has a viewfinder, but apart from that I’m not too fussed with things like lenses or camera models. I made the jump from film to digital fairly recently, and my photographs are different but in a good way. Before I prioritised having a point-and-shoot camera over the actual picture quality. Now I have both.
Does this work have a title? It doesn’t have a formal name yet, likely because it is an ongoing body of work as opposed to a specific project but I refer to it as Minimal Space which refers to both the style and the subject.
What have you been doing or working on since graduating? For a while I worked as an assistant to a handful of photographers whilst working on my own projects, including a zine called Calm and Absent. I am currently working part-time at an architects (who have just asked me to start photographing their projects) whilst developing my fine-art and interiors work