I'm thrilled to share with you today the work of my friend Rachel Hulin. She's the photographer behind the wildly popular Flying Henry series that made the media rounds a couple years back. She's also the artist who did a beautiful job shooting my wedding, and the creator of a lot of the pieces that deck my own walls. We spoke recently to discuss her career trajectory, her sources of inspiration, and the direction of her newest work.
How did you come to your career?
My career is truly an ongoing evolution, and I'm not sure it will ever be totally figured out. I majored in art history in college, and then worked in publishing in New York for a few years before I went to grad school for photography, thinking I'd emerge as a classic fine art photographer, showing at galleries.
Instead I went on to work at the International Center of Photography for several years, running the full-time programs and becoming really immersed in the all things photo in New York. After that I became a photo editor, creating stories and running photo editorial at Nerve.com and Rolling Stone and various other titles, and also started writing a lot about the photo industry online.
I finally circled back to making my own work around that time—or rather, marketing it, as I'd been making it all along. I fleshed out several personal series, including Flying Henry, which became a book with Powerhouse Books in 2013, and then a gallery show at ClampArt Gallery. I'm now continuing to make work, and I also lecture about professional practices and the role of social media in photography.
My editorial clients include Martha Stewart Living magazine, Country Living magazine, Whole Foods magazines, Food Network magazine, Fitness magazine, and Exit Zero magazine.
How do you come up with the ideas for your projects?
I keep notebooks with pages and pages of crazy ideas. Sometimes I have so many ideas that it's really overwhelming. I'm always working on a novel and two or three photo projects at a time. I get a lot of ideas from traveling, great films, and from reading (which is admittedly very hard to do with two children).
But most importantly, I get visual ideas by looking at other photography. My background as an editor really versed me in the history of photography, and I really stay on top of what other folks are making. Photography in general is moving more and more in the direction of collage, and it's fascinating to see, and has really informed my more recent work.
Your series Flying Henry is really popular, and garnered you all sorts of publicity, including write ups in Time magazine, GOOD magazine, and spots on NBC’s Today show, CNN, and the news on ABC and CBS. Were you surprised by the reception it got? What opportunities arose from it?
Yes! Initially it really took me by surprise, as it started as a small personal project. I posted a few pictures on Facebook that my friend, a photo editor at Time magazine saw, and it really took off. It was a strange kind of dance, to keep the integrity of the project while discussing it with a tippled Kathie Lee! I pitched the idea as a children's book, and teamed up with PowerHouse and then made work around the plot that we devised. It really was fun, and a great joy to see kids get into the book.
This past summer the images became a gallery show, and I was like: Huh! I guess I am a gallery artist after all this time!
What kind of projects are you working on now?
I'm making new work collaging images of my nieces with old photochroms from the 1800s. It's a new series, but I'm excited about where it's headed. Sort of a modern day tomboy, fantasy, castle hunter theme. I was thinking initially it could be a book, but only time will tell. I'm also really into magical kids portraits and landscapes that have been tweaked just slightly.
Are you ever commissioned by collectors? If so, how does that process work?
I have been a few times, but it was very difficult! I think it's easier to fly one's own baby! I do love to shoot formal portraits of children, but I usually stick to kids of friends. I'd like to do more of that.
How do people go about procuring one of your prints?
They are available through the gallery in three sizes, in small, medium, and large editions.
Do you have thoughts on framing? Mat or no mat? White frame or black?
My own framing is a white wood frame with the image set back 3/4 of an inch, with a two inch border on the print, no mat. Very clean.
What role does art play in your own home? How do you feel it can add to a space?
We moved two years ago and most of our art is still in storage! Oddly I'm enjoying blank walls right now. I can get persnickety when my own art is up because I'll start seeing flaws or feeling like something is no longer relevant. But I've always wanted to be better about collecting work, and I think I'll make that a goal for the near future.