Cassie Jones

Spotlight: The Socially Conscious Photography of Rachel Baran

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Rachel Baran from North Canton, Ohio is wise beyond her years.

Through her photography, the 20-year-old expresses herself by bringing to light important social issues in a compelling way.

Baran started using disposable cameras at a young age, but it wasn’t until she received a point-and-shoot digital camera on her 16th birthday that she got serious about photography. She saved up enough money to buy her own DSLR digital camera when she was 17 and has been experimenting ever since.

An ethics course this semester at Capital University in Columbus, OH gave Baran a new direction with her photos. She realised through these classes she has found her passion in bringing social and ethical issues to light. In fact, her most recent photos have been her favourite photos because of the subject matter and because she wants people to feel something when they look at her work.

“In one of my ethics classes recently, after discussing the American ’box’ of school-job-marriage-children-etc […]I realised what I’m passionate about is breaking peoples boxes.” Baran said. “After having my own box be broken so many times, and coming out better for it, I feel like I have an obligation to show others how the box does not have to be the way it is just because that’s the way it always has been.”

“Basically I just want to make people really think about everything they’ve been taught and reevaluate what they think is truly important.”

She said she is so enthusiastic about communicating social issues through art because she thinks she’s finally found her niche.

“I love having the ability to speak without speaking, I think. I’ve never been much of a talker; having to vocalise my thoughts has given me panic attacks since about the third grade,” Baran said. “So being able to communicate a message that I’m passionate about getting across without having to vocalise it is amazing, and extremely satisfying.”

At first, Baran’s pictures were aesthetically influenced by photographers Brooke Shaden, Karrah Kobus, Rosie Hardy and Lissy Elle, but over time Baran has drawn more influence from Sean Mundy’s work.

“It’s very minimalist but still communicates a large amount of information, which is the direction I’ve been wanting to head in,” Baran said.

Though photography is her main hobby at the moment, Baran does not think it will become a full-time job for her in the future. She does photography as a self-therapy and would rather keep it as a therapeutic practice rather than lose interest with it.

Her advice to aspiring artists?

“Don’t be afraid to make mistakes! And don’t be afraid of progress. I used to get so frustrated when I’d look at my photographs and compare them to others, but then I’d look at their first few photographs to remind myself that everyone starts somewhere, and that no one is born amazing or perfect at what they do. Progression is making mistakes and doing some not-so-great pieces. In order to learn what does work for you, you’ve got to figure out what doesn’t.”

In the future Baran hopes to go to graduate school in San Francisco or Portland, Oregon for social work after she graduates with a Psychology degree. After graduate school, she aspires to work on creative teams for non-profit organisations. She hopes to travel and help others as much as she can.

You can find all of Baran’s work on her Facebook page here or her Flickr page here.

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