Originally from London, Brooklyn-based photographer and filmmaker Rachel Elizabeth Seed is currently in post-production on her documentary, A Photographic Memory, which was featured in the IFP’s Spotlight on Documentaries at Independent Film Week in 2014, won the Roy W. Dean Filmmakers Grant, and is fiscally sponsored by Women Make Movies. Rachel’s work has been featured in the New York Times, The New Yorker, TIME Inc., and New York Magazine. She has contributed cinematography to VICE as well as the Sundance Labs award-winning film, Memories of a Penitent Heart, premiering at TriBeCa this spring. Her photography has been exhibited with the International Center of Photography (ICP) and The Shpilman Institute for Photography and supported with grants from the Maine Media Workshops and the Kentucky Foundation for Women. As curator and exhibition organizer, Rachel produced “OCCUPY!” for the ICP, and assisted with PDN Magazine’s exhibit with the Annenberg Space for Photography in 2014.
KitSplit: Can you tell us a little about your work?
Rachel: I’m a photographer, filmmaker and big idea person. My current project, A Photographic Memory, is a feature-length documentary about getting to know my mother, an adventuresome, world-traveling journalist and artist who died before I had the chance to get to know her. I’m also a freelance cinematographer and producer.
K: How would you describe your style?
R: Oddities of real life are endlessly fascinating to me. I’m interested in making art out of reality.
K: What have you been working on lately?
R: In addition to my personal work, I’m currently shooting and producing a conceptual art video series for a NY-based artist.
K: What piece of yours are you most proud of?
R: I am happy with the cinematography I contributed to a film that is premiering at TriBeCa this Spring, called Memories of a Penitent Heart, by my friend Cecilia Aldarondo, as well as what I’ve shot for my film, A Photographic Memory. I’ve also taken a few still images I quite like. Nowadays they end up on my Instagram.
K: Can you tell us a little about your process?
R: My process for creating is first intuitive (coming up with the ideas) and then involves writing and utilizing many, many lists, which I get great satisfaction crossing items off of. As a creative person, I require both time alone in silence to work and percolate as well as social time spent with others to keep myself focused and motivated. I also get an immense amount of fulfillment and energy from organizing and participating in creative collectives such as the Brooklyn Documentary Club, which I co-founded with filmmaker Josh Kriegman, and Film Fatales, a killer group of women directors and life-giving creative support network.
K: Can you give us a general overview of the gear you typically use?
K: What is your most-used piece of gear?
R: My Canon 5D Mark 2.
K: What’s your favorite piece of gear?
Is it wrong to say “my iPhone”? I like to travel light. Most of the time when I’m not filming I enjoy taking pictures with my phone. I believe in the phrase I’ve heard, “the best camera is the one you have with you.” However, when I am filming, it’s probably my 50mm 1.4 Canon lens.
K: Can you talk a little about what inspires you?
R: I’m inspired by people and projects that have the balls to be themselves without apology. Specific things that have inspired me lately are David Bowie’s “Hunky Dory” and “Ziggy Stardust,” Sufjan Stevens “Carrie & Lowell,” Jason Segal’s performance in “The End of the Tour,” the guy on the subway I filmed air drumming and head rolling to music I couldn’t hear, and the mind-blowing trip across Israel I made for my film last month. Generally speaking, however, it’s music, travel, fresh produce, and brilliant, compassionate people.
K: What’s the best piece of advice you got when starting out?
R: Make it personal and don’t hold back.
K: What advice would you offer to other folks just starting out?
R: You don’t need to live a prescribed life. If something you do fills you with energy and inspiration, there is likely a way to make a career of it and carve your own path.