10 Questions With Rebecca Rothey

Street Scene 2020 2nd-Place Winner: “Men Moving Mirror” by Rebecca Rothey.

Rebecca Rothey was the second-place winner of our Street Scene 2020 Photo Contest. Rothey considers herself an advanced amateur photographer and has been shooting for 20 years. We caught up with the Columbia, Maryland-based photographer to learn more about her craft, how she got started and what inspires her.

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1. How did you get started with photography?

I got started in photography while working on my undergraduate degree at the College of Notre Dame of Maryland as an adult, part-time student. I took a basic black-and-white photography class to meet my fine art requirement and ended up using all of my electives on photography classes. It provided a great respite during the pressures of working full time while attending school. I’ve been making images ever since.

2. How would you describe your photographic style?

My photographic style leans toward the quirky. I’m influenced by traditional street photographers, appreciating opportunities to allow my sense of irony and humor to show through in my image making.

3. Which photographic subjects do you focus on? 

I enjoy making images of people, both candid and with permission. I’m also attracted to steps, found objects and natural details.

4. Where is one of your favorite locations to shoot?

My favorite location to shoot is any place where I’ve had the foresight to bring a camera (I do occasionally use my cell phone) and encounter a subject that interests me.

5. Which photographers do you most admire?

I admire the great street photographers, especially Elliot Erwitt, and traditional documentary photographers such as Robert Frank. Recently, I have enjoyed exploring the documentary work of Gillian Laub and Keith Carter’s exquisite “Fifty Years.”

6. What inspires you creatively?

I have an overactive brain. I engage it by viewing and reading as much about photography and other art as time allows. This visual and academic stimulation feeds my thinking about my own work and helps me explore new possibilities while making images. 

7. What are you working on at the moment? What’s next?

During the Covid-19 shut down, I began working on a series of images of my unusually slender husband. He has been a cooperative subject, including a willingness to pose in the nude. I’m looking forward to participating in Doug Beasley’s workshop, Dramatic Portrait: The Figure in the Badlands, in 2022, during which my husband has kindly agreed to participate as a model.

8. What is one of your favorite photographs you’ve made, and why?

Comfy in Their Skin, included here, was named Best Image of the Year 2011-12 by the Baltimore Camera Club. The image was made with the permission of the subjects. I appreciate how the woman just kept reading, without changing her gesture in the slightest, while the man engaged in eye contact with me. To me, it shares a moment of people completely comfortable with themselves and who they are, something I believe we should all strive for. Oh, and it’s also quirky.

9. What’s in your camera bag?

I’ve been a Nikon user since going digital in 2008. (My college work, as well as Men Moving Mirror made shortly after graduating, was shot on film.) I’m currently making images with the Nikon Z6, which I adore especially for its ease of use and the quality of its high ISO images. I use either the kit 28-70mm zoom or a longer zoom lens with the adapter.

10. Is there a photo accessory you consider essential for your work?

No, though I do occasionally get it together to bring a tripod when appropriate. 

Bonus Answers!

11. What software do you use for processing and managing your images?

I’m primarily a Lightroom user. After many years of trying, I have yet to master PhotoShop. I also use Silver Efex Pro for my black-and-white images.

12. Which trends in photography excite you most?

The recognition of the work of photographers of color, both current and historically. I appreciate photographers who are witnesses to the more challenging aspects of our contemporary world and their willingness to make viewers uncomfortable in the process. Beyond that, there’s truly an unprecedented range of image making being done right now across the planet. I’m currently being drawn to photographers who are incorporating painting into their images.

13. For you, what makes a compelling photograph?

This is a tough question, because any engagement with a photograph must, by its nature, involve the perspective of the viewer as well as the photographer. That said, stronger images often cause viewers to ask questions or evoke a specific emotional response. 

14. What’s a tip or bit of photography advice you wish you had when starting out?

Don’t worry about what others think of your images or about how “good” they are. Making images should be about what brings you joy. That said, critiques made by those you trust, and who are kind and positive during the process, can be a helpful way to learn and grow as a photographer. I’m an active member of a creative photography group of about 15 photographers that meets monthly. We learn from each other through critiques and presentations. 

15. What motivates you or gets you out of a creative rut?

I love learning. As long as I’m learning, I feel motivated to explore new things.

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