April 3, 2015
My journey as a photographer and artist has taken many twists and turns from when I first fell in love with taking pictures at 11 years old. Finding my passion at such an early age and being lucky enough to attend a school with a wonderful photography program, I was able to try on different personas emulating my heroes- quirky yet intimate street portraits like Diane Arbus, epic fashion editorials full of whimsy like David LaChapelle, way too many portraits of my dog like William Wegman, freezing time with strobes like Harold Edgerton, sensually elegant black and white still lives like Edward Weston, and countless others. By the time I reached college I had my heart set on fashion photography and fell in love with the art and romance of creating epic imagery while working in Avedon’s archive. However, I also loved documentary photography and as I spent my days pouring over images by Avedon, Blumenfeld and Penn I found myself missing the authenticity and emotion of work by my other heroes like Hine, Riis and Salgado. In my junior year of college I did a 180 and began studying how photography could sculpt the way we see world and actually motivate people to care about social issues. I rekindled my old love of taking photographs of my pup a la Wegman, but this time my eye landed on new heroes from National Geographic like Paul Nicklen, Nick Nichols and Nick Brandt. I went from taking photographs of my dog to environmental portraits of polar bears in the Arctic. My photographs from the Arctic were awarded in PDN’s prestigious Photo Annual my senior year of college and it gave birth to my series, Threatened, photographing endangered species in the wild to re-contextualize how we see wildlife as trophies. After a five month trip circling the globe working in wildlife sanctuaries after graduation, I returned to New York to figure out what was next.
While researching future trips I decided to start doing some portrait work on the side. I was surprised by how much I liked it, finding my niche in documenting authentic family moments. My new company was born- Rebecca Yale Portraits. I had two websites and two brands- Rebecca Yale Photography was my documentary work and Rebecca Yale Portraits would be my portrait work. Over the next year my focus started to shift as I realized I didn’t want to be traveling 10-11 months out of the year and then in 2011, while attending my cousin’s wedding (with my camera in tow), I discovered a new passion I had never even considered before. During my years at NYU I watched as other students photographed a few weddings here and there to make extra money and I thought to myself- I could never shoot a wedding, I’m an artist. I saw wedding photography on par with being a Sears Portrait Studio photographer. But being at an actual wedding, my first since being a flower girl as a child, I saw that weddings were in fact a perfect combination of the two things I loved most about photography- documenting authentic and meaningful moments while also using romanticism and fantasy to create epic larger than life portraits, just like fashion photography. I was quickly hooked and found a new wave of mentors to look up to- Elizabeth Messina, John Dolan, Christian Oth, Jose Villa- wedding photographers who were true artists and changing people’s concepts of what wedding photography could be.
Fast forward four years (with plenty of bumps along the way) and I have found my love and passion in wedding photography. I still love my documentary work, and I work on my Threatened series when I can, but my main focus is now my wedding and lifestyle photography. I combined my two websites two years ago, but kept the name Rebecca Yale Portraits because that’s what I had established myself as. This year I decided it was time to go back to my original name, Rebecca Yale Photography. I am more than just a portraitist and I wanted my name to reflect that. When I decided to switch my focus from documentary to weddings I had an internal crisis. I had just been nominated for PDN’s 30 rising stars, which was based off my documentary work, and I knew that when they saw the direction I was now taking I would not move forward in judging. Those 30 are commercial or documentary photographers, not what I like to call “private sector” photography like weddings and family portraits. I was heartbroken and worried I had made the wrong decision, but each wedding I photographed and the joy that came from it reassured me of my new direction. Last year I was nominated for Rangefinder’s 30 rising stars of wedding photography, and while I didn’t make it to the finals (hey there’s always this year right?), my heart soared knowing that I was now on a path that I was proud of and excelling at. Today as I announce my new name, I am so honored to also announce that I won the editorial category in PDN’s Top Knots: The New School of Wedding Photography competition one of my photographs will soon be appearing in the May edition of PDN Magazine and can be seen in the gallery online. Also in a little full-circle moment I found out the same day that I am a runner up in Rangefinder Magazine’s Best Friends: The Ultimate Animal Photography Contest for my series from Antarctica, which can be viewed here and in the April issue of Rangefinder Magazine. I could not be more excited and feel more assured that I am finally where I’m meant to be. However I do know that all the twists and turns I took along the way and forays into other career paths within photography have molded the photographer I am today and I will continue to draw from all of that knowledge and am so grateful for all those experiences.
So that was a very long winded way of saying that I am very happy to officially introduce my new name and my new logo!