Rachel Eubanks is a visual journalism and publication management student at The University of Georgia. Her long-term portrait and interview project Boss Bitches of Athens focuses on feminist and LGBT communities in Athens, giving insight into what it's like to be an independent woman in the South.
How did your interest in your medium begin and how did you arrive at your current style?
I began making photographs and learning about the process of documentary photography about a year and a half ago. I squeezed my way into an introductory photojournalism class at Grady College, the journalism school at The University of Georgia, which will be my alma mater come May. After gaining acceptance into the small visual journalism program at the college, I've developed my photographic style by learning to "fail faster," or by attempting to push myself, even if that means failing on the first try.
How do you choose your subjects?
Most often, my subjects and I find each other unexpectedly.The most meaningful stories I've been able to tell have been the results of being open, listening well, and maintaining a curiosity for where my subjects can take me. Most recently, I worked with a local drag queen named Semaj Onyx Coxring, who I met through an artist and neighbor of mine named Tennessee Loveless. Athens is a pretty small town, so when people have ideas that might fit with my work or know folks they think I should meet, they can always just give me a call. I'm very grateful to live in a town filled with residents who live to create art and meet like-minded people.
Who have been some of your biggest influences or your best teachers?
My most influential teacher for my visual journalism work has been Mark Johnson, the head of UGAVJ, or my university's photojournalism department. Over three semesters of photo classes with Mark, I learned how to be an honest witness –– a storyteller capable of treating subjects with respect and honoring the story above the self. This can be a tough way to live, as I would often rather post a selfie than reveal my professional work, but I think that this basis of journalistic ethic has shown me how to present myself and my work with honesty.
Do you have a creative or artistic peer group in your area that you're a part of? What opportunities are there for artists like yourself in your area?
Athens, Georgia, is known as a place where artists can live and work without much interference (and as a city with hella cheap rent). You can run into Michael Stipe at the local thrift store or see Kevin Barnes grabbing doughnuts with his daughter, which I think is pretty wild. A friend of mine even lives in the house that the B-52s used to call home. This small city is creative, but competitive because of its size. But there is always something going on in multiple facets of the art scene (visual, musical, culinary), which makes Athens feel very alive.
The artists I find most inspiring right now would be Kristine Leschper of the band Mothers, the ladies behind Beauty Everyday, a blog and book recently featured on Design Sponge, photographer Jim Fiscus, and my friend, Sarah Kennedy, a screenprint artist and very inspiring feminist.
Where do you go to draw inspiration?
I am constantly inspired by the feminist community in my town. Specifically in my peer group, I know many ladies who identify as feminists and create art foremost for their own pleasure. In journalism school, I learned to sacrifice my viewpoint for the purity of my stories, but these ladies have shown me that I can create art to better understand myself while also connecting with others on a deeper level.
Tell me about a recent, current, or upcoming project or exhibition.
For the past six months, I've been working on a blog called Boss Bitches of Athens, which features creative women in my community and their experiences as women living in the South. You can see more at bossbitchesofathens.tumblr.com.