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Meet Rachel Taylor of Strange Cacti Photography in Tierrasanta / Mission Trails

Today we’d like to introduce you to Rachel Taylor.

Rachel, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
At the core, I’d describe my story as that of an image-maker. My love of nature is the largest cog in my ambitious heart’s beating machinery. It all began in Patagonia Argentina, where I was working onsite at Earthship Patagonia. I was living in a tent, taking solar showers, and working as a cook for architects and other individuals helping on the project. I had a hand in molding cob walls and documenting my time there in photo and video. It wasn’t until I started to document my weekend backpacking trips in the Andes mountains near El Bolson that I discovered I had a deep underlying drive to represent what I was experiencing.

When I returned to UC Santa Barbara after the four-month-long work away experience, I found myself increasingly interested in Earth science and environmental documentary filmmaking. I supplemented film studies with knowledge of earth systems. I even played an integral role in creating a film festival award-winning documentary about beekeepers in Santa Barbara county called Believers, part of UCSB’s incredibly formative GreenScreen program.

After graduating and moving back to San Diego, I got even more into hiking, traveling, and taking photographs. I can happily say that my photos have been displayed in galleries such as the Glass Box Gallery in Santa Barbara & the Infinity on West Adams in Los Angeles. You can also see it in print in the Summer issue of Edible magazine, album covers and social media content for multiple bands, merch photos for Topshelf Records, and fancy Instagram cocktail shots for bars like Realm of 52 Remedies (a collaboration with James Tran Photography).

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
I’ve struggled with direction. I’ve been all over the place when it comes to subjects because I took the kitchen sink approach. My work spans from landscapes of Patagonia backcountry to surreal portraiture with environmentalist undertones to cocktails. It has been difficult to market myself as a singular vision, which is why I recently rebranded myself as Strange Cacti Photography. I hope to bring what I truly love, nature conservation, back to center stage.

We’d love to hear more about your business.
As a one-woman business, Strange Cacti Photography (and Videography) still functions as a freelance and request based photography service. However, I find nature conservation and climate change to be of the greatest urgency. I donate 50% of revenue from my photography prints to environmental organizations representing the ecosystem in each respective photograph. For example, one of my more recent shots of Coal Oil Point in Goleta donates to the University of California Natural Reserve System. I want to liberate the landscape that has inspired me and provided me with the natural beauty, for which I would not have a product to begin with.

What were you like growing up?
Growing up, I always wanted to be different. At the age of 8, I would often opt for a plate of steamed muscles over anything on the kids’ menu. I was rambunctious, loved playing the drums, traveling, and being generally adventurous. I recognize this in myself still, doing things like snapping photos of decaying yucca when the entirety of the ocean pulses behind me. What intrigues me is the fragility of the environment in that moment, to ignore the constants and revel in what was not there yesterday. It’s not to under-appreciate what has almost always been there- but to love and learn the changes. To take what you see for what the diversity and details are worth. It’s a way of finding solace, presence, and a child-like sense of wonder. For that, I have yet to photograph and all that I do not know, one thing is for certain: I could never meditate in the window seat.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Strange Cacti Photography

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