New Work from Rachel Phillips

Posted on Jan 14, 2015

In an exploration of time, history and personality, From Time to Time includes work made by Rachel Phillips as herself, as well as the work of her two alter-egos: Madge Cameron and Frances Pane. From Time to Time is her second solo show at Catherine Couturier Gallery.


About Rachel Phillips b. 1983

Rachel began photography while completing her undergraduate degree at Skidmore College, graduating in 2005.  Her work has been included in numerous group and solo exhibitions, at spaces including the Phoenix Museum of Art, Jack Fischer Gallery, PhotoEye Gallery and Dina Mitrani Gallery.  From Time to Time is her second solo show at Catherine Couturier Gallery. Her work has been has been widely printed in publications, including American Photo, Photo District News, Diffusion Magazine and LensWork. In 2010, her series Field Notes was included in Photolucida's Critical Mass Top 50. She was an Artist-in-Residence at RayKo Photo Center in summer 2013. In 2014, Treadwell Press published Rachel’s first book FIXED.

Rachel lives in the San Francisco Bay Area, and in addition to art, she works from an 8x15 foot office built on a flatbed trailer teaching dyslexic children.


About Divinations

So often in our daily lives, our attention is fixed on the future—planning for Tomorrow.  And as artists, too, we rush to make new work, to take new pictures, to create, always, something new.  But what of the past?  Past lives?  Past work?  Past pictures?

Coming across these mounted albumen prints of portraits from the late 1800's—called Cabinet Cards and wildly popular in their time—I started asking myself these questions.  We think of the future as unknown and the past as known—as history in a heavy book.  But mostly the past, and the people who lived before us, are as obscure and unknowable to us as the future is—we need a crystal ball to see back in time, too.

The idea of building a series using these original photographs grew, and divination seemed an appropriate theme both because spiritualism was popular in the 1800's, and because the series was largely about re-incarnating the people in these photographs by considering them again; making the past once again present, and giving us a vicarious way to ponder the passage of our own lives.



About Madge Cameron, b 1935

Raised by her grandmother after her father mysteriously disappeared during the Depression (leaving only a rudimentary camera behind), Cameron grew-up in the library and stayed there, earning a PhD from the Librarians Anonymous Correspondence College Program which she completed while…in the library.  “My grandmother would get tired of having my brother and me running around the house and would say, ‘Go to the library and hush.’ And we did, it was just down the street from our house... all these years later, here I still am.”


About Fixed

Until this project, Cameron had always seen photography as a separate venture from her work as Founding Archivist at the Pacific Library Privé and Special Collections. But here, Cameron’s photography and archive work intersect, resulting in pieces that don’t quite fit either category.

While working to digitize the Collection’s extensive photographic holdings, Cameron discovered accidentally that by moving the photograph while the image was being recorded, she could separate the image into its color channels, resulting in a strange 3D effect.  At first irritated with what she saw as failed work, Cameron eventually came to embrace the “process of interruption,” as she puts it.  “I came to see the process as a metaphor for what I do as an archivist; each piece becomes a visual cross-reference of itself.”




About Frances Pane b. 1890

Little is know about Pane, including the gender of the photographer.  For decades, scholars assumed that Pane was a man, but a 2012 discovery of a locked trunk containing many of Pane’s papers and possessions raised serious doubts about this: what would a man be doing with a petticoat and Sunday bonnet?  If Pane was a woman, it would make her one of the first woman-pioneers in the male dominated world of photography.


About Vanishing Point

An early pioneer of photography with a long and varied career, Pane’s work has sadly fallen victim to the sands of time, and no photographs remain extant. Yet we can imagine how wonderful the photographs would be—if we only had them.




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