Preparing for a shoot does not entail lighting tests and diagrams for photojournalism student Rachel Mummey, but rather time spent developing relationships with her subjects. Rachel's authentic portrayals of people's day-to-day lives hinges on the familiarity and trust she establishes with her subjects. Now nearing the completion of her Master's in Photography, Mummey has already been the recipient of several prominent photography awards, including the College Photographer of the Year, and her work has been featured in News Photographer Magazine, PDN and the New York Times' Lens Blog. Her PhotoShelter website, which she relies on as her online portfolio, has undoubtedly played a strong role in her early career success.
Raised in Iowa City, Rachel began shooting while in high school. "I liked the act of taking pictures and I liked telling stories," she says, but it was not until she saw the FSA's work in a freshman year journalism class that she was introduced to the concept of photojournalism. After finishing her undergraduate degree, Rachel landed her first on staff position was at a "small, small town" paper in Iowa, she was hired with the stipulation that she would be both photograph and reporter, writing the stories she was covering for the paper. On the recommendation of Danny Wilcox Frazier, Rachel's first photography professor and mentor at the University of Iowa, Rachel applied and was accepted to Ohio University's photojournalism graduate program in the school of communications in 2008.
Rachel went on to study at Ohio University's School of Visual Communication graduate program and last year was named College Photographer of the Year as well as earning second place in the Pictures of the Year International competition, both for her documentary on Bernard and Mary Triplet. Rachel spent a great deal of time with the Triplets, an elderly couple living without many health care resources in rural Southern Ohio. The photos illustrate Mary's fragility and Bernard's devotion to his wife in spite of her increasing disorientation. The series is exemplary of the work Rachel strives to produce.
I'm interested in photographing people, their condition, and the relationships they have with others in their lives. Documentary projects are my passion and I think it is evident in my pictures. I work very diligently to build relationships with the people I photograph so that I can pursue long term projects.
Her PhotoShelter site functions primarily as her online portfolio. She uses the portfolio features exclusively to showcase her best work, and although her images are not priced for immediate purchase, she relies on her PhotoShelter site to land new jobs. She was able to create an elegant and straightforward presentation of her work using Farah, one PhotoShelter's ten instant website templates. The custom logo she created in PhotoShop and uploaded into her account was an easy and effective tactic in differentiating her site from others using the same template. The minimal design of the portfolio and website that she chose helps to showcase her images and keep visitors immersed in her stories.
Every PhotoShelter website includes two blank custom pages, which members may use for any purpose they want. Rachel uses one of her custom pages to display her multimedia projects. She hosts her videos on Vimeo and uses their embed code to insert them directly onto her PhotoShelter site. The custom pages support both plain text and HTML formatting, so it's possible to insert images, videos, and flash objects onto the page. Rachel also displays a large JPG of her resume on her second custom page.
"There's no denying a website as a crucial tool for photographers to have in today's industry," Rachel says. "PhotoShelter makes it really easy for me to update my site because all I have to do it upload the files."
Now finishing her coursework at Ohio, Rachel has already started to shift her focus to building her photo career. She has landed some of the most coveted photojournalism internships in the country including a stint at National Geographic (via the COPY award package), The Virginian Pilot, the Palm Beach Post, as well as papers in smaller markets including The Jasper Herald, in Dubois County Indiana where she is currently working. Once her masters work is complete, she will most likely look for a permanent position at a newspaper as her interests lie in local press, "I want to be a photojournalist so people in my community can see. I want to inform the people around me. I love seeing pictures [of mine] in the paper every day."