Rachel June

Music Photographer

June 7, 2016


How old are you?

I’ll be 28 tomorrow.

Where are you from originally?

I grew up in Covington.

How long have you been in the city of New Orleans?

It will be five years in August.

Why are you still here?

I’ve traveled a lot and have been to a lot of different cities and people don’t treat you the same as they do here. It’s nice to even see a stranger and have them look at you like a human being not like a thing walking down the road. There’s something new every day. And I actually like the heat.

In what capacity are you a part of the New Orleans music community?

When I first started shooting, I’d always have my camera with me. And then I found music and my senses went crazy. I started shooting music and to me it’s all about catching that one moment and it’s still a challenge to do that. One, it’s interesting. Two, it’s different all the time and you enjoy yourself while you’re shooting because you get to listen to music.

Do you remember being told or taught anything growing up about your behavioral expectations as a girl?

I think society and media teaches us that. As children, we’re always watching TV or being told stuff from our teachers. Girls do this, boys do that. And being in the south pushes those stereotypes. To this day, the woman stays home and the guy goes out and works. That’s not always reality any longer but it still is that way down here.

Can you define sexism as it presents itself to you?

Sexism is the female experience. It’s feeling and hearing people say, “You can’t do this because you have a vagina,” or like “I look at you this way because you have a vagina.” I feel it every day all the time. Because I have a vagina, somebody somewhere is going to think I can’t do it. A lot of people see females as weak and not worthy so when you present yourself to do a certain job, you are still going to be judged for your gender and your sexuality. They may not even give you the chance. That’s real here. That’s life.

How does being treated in a sexist way make you feel?

I think it’s hilarious. My art is very feminine. It speaks about the female mind and body and it is very bold and I get the worst looks from women. They say things like “I can’t believe you’re showing this to the world” or “You’re exploiting yourself,” or “I can’t believe you’re doing that.” And then men would come to look and realize what it was and then walk away like they weren’t supposed to see it. I feel that some people who see my artwork think I’m a whore or a slut. That’s not me but it’s what people think I’m putting out there. It can be agitating when I want to be taken seriously and they see it for something else.

Do you always notice when individuals are acting in a sexist way?

Not always because I try not to let that bother me. If someone is not going to be real with me, then fuck it. I don’t need to be talking to you. You’re not worth my time.

Can you recall any occasions when you experienced sexist behavior against you?

I worked at Walgreens when I was 18 and I wanted to be a stock boy. I am a small person but I can still do it but my boss was sexist and told me “You’re a girl, you can’t do this.” What do you mean I can’t stock the shelves? That pissed me off. When I was brought up, my dad was a carpenter and a contractor and he was always building things. My mom was a teacher and sometimes when my dad left the house, it became three women in the house so we held the motto of “We can do it!” like Rosie The Riveter. She was our mascot. I’m not afraid to make things and play with dangerous power tools.

Are there any particular stereotypes about women that drive you nuts?

I think a lot about burlesque dancers and how they might be treated. It is an artistry. It’s not exploiting the body. It’s praising the body and saying how beautiful it is and having a performance to be able to do so. It has a bad stereotype associated with it so when I see burlesque dancers, I just want to high-five them and say “Yeah girl, you go!” I like for people to be free. I was running around naked until I was like 14. I just like to be free.

Can you tell me a little bit about your approach to your photographs?

It’s kind of like therapy. When people might go for a run or write down their feelings or cry, I go to the camera. I just get it out. Whatever is on my mind, I create it in front of the camera. A lot of people try to hide their emotions. Men are told not to cry ever. But we all feel these things. We all go through these things. It’s alright and it’s ok to show it. We’re all humans. We’re all the same.

With your self-portraits and photographs that involve more nudity than others, what are some of the judgments you’ve received?

People tell me I have body dysmorphia. I used to be anorexic and bulimic and that’s something I still work on every day. Being nude is another thing that is a therapy because it’s stating that the human form is beautiful, the body is beautiful, a woman is beautiful. A lot of them are nudes because I like to be naked all the time. I hate clothes, just ask my family. Fucking American society is so dumb and so censored. Go to France: there’s nudity everywhere and it’s completely accepted. It’s very normal.

Do you think that makes doing it here more important?

I was thinking that last night. It’s something people don’t see every day. I think that the body is censored so much that it’s important to put it back out there and remind people that it’s ok. This is your body. We don’t need to hide it.

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

I think feminism as well as sexism are parts of our daily lives and it’s something we always have to deal with. I don’t like to think about it too often but it’s definitely there and it is in my art. People do treat you different because you’re a female but they’re not important so let’s move on.

It’s hard to deal with the judgements and jokes and comments, especially with friends. I had it happen last weekend and I froze because I was standing amongst a group of men that were already laughing at it.

If you were a guy, they would never have said that. But that’s the whole point of having a vagina. That’s the reality. Do you think it would be worth it to say something?

Even if just for my sake, yes. I feel like I’m gaining so much from these interviews. I’m seeing so many different viewpoints. Before I started this project, I wouldn’t have called myself insensitive to it but it’s so much deeper now. It’s something I go to sleep with, it’s something I wake up with.

That’s good though. I’m glad you’re doing this. Once you have this together, you can put it out there into the world and it will make more people aware. That’s the whole point of producing art.