Rachel Sokal

Rachel starts from the premise that photography is naturally occurring; light is constantly changing to the physical world. She tweaks those reactions, catching them, often fleetingly, using her range of delicate and labour intensive alternative photographic techniques. Living Echo is Rachel’s current body of work and the culmination of two years of experimentation. These are photos printed onto leaves using only sunlight.

By placing a photo printed onto clear acetate over a leaf, then exposing it to the sun for several days, the leaf itself takes on the image. Where the acetate image cast a protective shadow over areas of the leaf, it stays a healthy green or darker brown. Where the sun shines through the clear highlights of the image overlay, it damages the leaf rather in a similar way to our own skin, though drying and bleaching rather than darkening it. The leaf is still alive as the photo develops into its cellular structure; only drying once the process is over and the photo overlay is lifted away. Just as the leaf itself had a lifespan, so does the image now printed onto it. Rachel’s chlorophyll prints are purposely left ‘unfixed’ and chemical free. This means the images continue their slow change whenever they are exposed to sunlight, slowly bleaching and disappearing forever.

Through this body of work Rachel attempts to bring sweeping environmental issues down to a more personal, tangible level. She explores issues of species survival in changing climates and both the power of solar energy and the damaging effect of UV light on living cells; whether plant, animal or human.  Since these pieces are still in motion, still light sensitive, they are displayed in protective shrouds to prolong the lifespan of this work. In order to view these delicate, translucent leaves you must uncover them, thus taking part in their eventual destruction and highlighting our active part in effecting the world around us.

2007-2008 University of Bristol: MA Empires; Peoples, Histories and Cultures
2005-2006 José Martí International Journalism Institute, Havana
2003-2007 University of Bristol: BA Spanish, specialising in Latin American Studies

2012 Living Echo, The Island Gallery, Bristol
2012 Out of the Dark I, Bristol Central Library, Bristol
2012 Still Alive, Bristol Folk House, Bristol
2007 Imagining Cuba: Permanent photography exhibition commissioned by Bristol University

2013 F Number, South Bradley Gallery, Bristol
2012 Old Beliefs, Antlers Gallery, Stroud
2012 Heliacal, St Augustine's Tower, Hackney, London
2012 Illusoriamente, European Conference for Visual Perception, Sardinia, Italy
2012 Alternative Processes Finalists Exhibition, Center for Fine Art Photography, Colorado
2012 RGB Awards
2012: Finalists Exhibition, Grant Bradley Gallery, Bristol
2010 Alternatives: Unconventional & Uncommon Processes Finalists Exhibition, MPLS Photo Center, Minneapolis
2010 Rhizomatic, Departure Gallery, London
2010 Still Alive, The Island Gallery, Bristol
2008 Somerset Art Weeks Exhibition, The Meeting House Arts Centre, Ilminster
2008 The Waiting Rooms, The Emporium, Bristol

2012 Finalist, ‘RGB Awards 2012’, Bristol, UK
2012 Director's Honourable Mention, 'Alternative Process Competition', Center for Fine Art Photography, USA
2010 Finalist, ‘Alternatives Competition’, MPLS Photo Center, USA

2012 Artist, Fresh Arts NHS
2011 Writer, Vignette Magazine
2011 Artist, Bristol City Council Outreach
2011 Artist, BBC Outreach
2008-2010 Education Co-ordinator, Chiapas Photography Project & Indigenous Photography Archive, Mexico
2009 Member of NEAT Studios, Bristol