Tributes & Video Biographies
Sharing Life Stories, Connecting Generations, Preserving Legacies

Photographer Rachel Phillips; Field Notes

Sometimes you see something visual and it just resonates with you on such a deep level that it starts the beginnings of an interest, an obsession, or even a love affair.

I was in the Catherine Couturier Gallery a couple months ago and came across a few pieces by artist Photographer Rachel Phillips, who considers herself a photographer yet uses her photography in such a unique manner via a transfer process that all her art works are one of a kind, completely unique. In her work entitled “Field Notes”, she transfers images to old letters, envelopes and aerograms. They are personal, in that each has a cancelled stamp from somewhere, and the name of who sent it or who it was sent to, some with letters or personal notations.  I had expressed some interest to Catherine, the gallery owner, and she said, wait a couple of months, Rachel has a show coming up and was bringing in a lot of new work.

Here is a video of her process:

Well the show’s opening was yesterday evening. Knowing that I wanted to purchase a piece for myself, I went in earlier in the afternoon and with the gallery to myself, I wandered around deciding and then un-deciding many times until I finally picked out two pieces that spoke to me on various levels. I loved the imagery on all of them, but one of the pieces held a personal connection for me in that it was an envelope, obviously fan mail, sent to Norma Talmadge, the silent film actress. The postmark date on one envelope is 3 11 1928. My first son was born on 3 11. The letter was sent to her care of United Artists in Hollywood California, where I grew up. The image is one of a child sleeping in a four poster bed, hunkered down under a duvet. One of the other elements in the piece was an envelope sent to someone in Staten Island New York from France. My family immigrated through Staten Island in the early 1900s. I was born in New York. I grew up in California, well I’m sure you are starting to see the connection to the piece.


Here is the second piece I bought below and it will eventually belong to my new grand-daughter, but for now, I will enjoy it. It’s called Greenwald Girl.

Screen Shot 2013-09-08 at 1.22.28 PM
The opening was great and I had the opportunity to meet and chat with Rachel for awhile and she explained how she ‘found’ this medium of expression. I am always excited by that; how people’s inspiration gets set on fire, what starts the process that becomes a project, a career, a life.

This morning, in the afterglow of excitement from purchasing her pieces and meeting her, and loving her show, I went to her website and found this in her Artist Statement:

“So often in our daily lives, our attention is fixed on the future—planning for Tomorrow.  And as artists, too, we rush to make new work, to take new pictures, to create, always, something new.  But what of the past?  Past lives?  Past work?  Past pictures?”

“The images are printed on old envelopes collected from around the world; artifacts from the last centuries. What did the envelopes contain? Where did they come from? In whose mailbox were they delivered? What stories do they tell?”

The key clicked in the lock. Well of course I love her work. We are committed to the same vision, telling stories that explain the past and honor those who came before us. Like detectives, we work with what we have to tell a story, usually of something that happened a long time ago, that connects to the audience on an emotional level. We are both committed to preserving history.

Rachel’s show will be up until October 19, 2013 so if you’re in Houston, you’ll have plenty of time to stop by and take a look at her work. Let me know if you do, and stop by here and leave a comment letting me know what you thought.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *