New Photographers: Q&A with Rachel Main


Rachel Main’s artistic practice is rooted in storytelling and connection. She has been embedded in the Australian Krump scene for over 13 years, becoming the community ‘documenter’. Rachel is currently completing Master of Art (Photography) at Photography Studies College. For her mentor, she is paired with British photojournalist George Georgiou—who was a commissioned PHOTO 2021 artist as part of the Metro Tunnel Creative Program.

Hello Rachel, please start by telling us something about yourself that is not in your bio.

I grew up in a small coastal town in Central Queensland called Yeppoon and was lucky to spend a lot of my childhood outdoors.

What inspired you to work with photography?

My first ‘proper’ engagement with photography was when I studied Fine Arts and happened to do a darkroom photography subject—I was spellbound by its technology and magic. I then learnt how to teach darkroom photography when on teaching rounds for my GradDip, and later when I landed my job as a high school photography teacher. As my knowledge and engagement with this art form developed, so too did my interest in exploring it in my own personal practice.

How would you describe your practice? Can you explain your artistic process?

My practice is rooted in storytelling and connection and at its core are the relationships and the communities I engage with. I’m interested in process, documentation, participation and collaboration, with my work spanning across photography and video. My artistic process will change and adapt depending on the nature of the project, but like most things, it starts with an idea, or an inquiry and then develops from there. I used to be much more rigid in my process and found it hard when the work or project was seemingly not going as planned or envisioned, however I’ve learnt (through doing the MA and trying to create in times of a global pandemic) to let go and be much more flexible.

Image: Rachel Main, U-Ground 'kills off', Buck Validation Street Session, Collingwood, Melbourne, 2014

Image: Rachel Main, UGround Kills Off, 2014. Courtesy the artist.

What can people expect to see from you at PHOTO 2022’s New Photographers exhibition?

Over the past two years I have been working on a project called Session Queens as part of my MA studies at the Photography Studies College. Session Queens is a project that aims to highlight the women and girls of the Australian and Aotearoa (New Zealand) Krump dance communities. Ideas associated with identity, expression, movement and body are explored through a range of methodologies including documentation, participation and collaboration. Some of the project’s imagery featuring the women krumping and their hand gestures will be included in the New Photographers exhibition, with a link to the project’s website allowing for further engagement with this community.

Where do you draw inspiration for your work from?

I draw inspiration from other artists, personal experiences and people I connect with.

Image: Rachel Main, Queen Trespass, 2019. Courtesy the artist.

What does the PHOTO 2022 theme Being Human mean to you?

This very universal theme makes me think about our commonalities and how quickly these can be forgotten during times of stress or when divisive strategies are being used. I’m reminded of our impermanence, our need to be understood, connected and loved, our flaws and our resilience.

As part of the New Photographers program you have been paired with George Georgiou as your mentor. Can you let us know why you are excited about connecting with them and what you are hoping to gain from the mentorship?

I was very excited to be paired with George who is very experienced and established in his career as a photographer and photojournalist. I am looking forward to discussing our practices and exploring our individual approaches to photography. I’m grateful to have this mentorship leading up to the festival where I can discuss specific aspects of the project and have George help me get it ready for exhibition. It is quite overwhelming trying to prepare a large project for exhibition when only a small portion of it can get shown, so having someone to assist me with this is awesome.

Image: George Georgiou, [Algiers, New Orleans] from the series [Americans Parade], 2016.

Image: George Georgiou, Algiers, New Orleans from the series Americans Parade, 2016.

When you are not working, what do you enjoy doing most?

I try to keep my life pretty simple these days and I most enjoy spending time with my family, being in nature, learning, creating, cooking, reading, having baths… the ultimate chilled-out lifestyle!

What advice would you give to your 15 year-old self?

I would tell 15 year-old Rachel that she should be more confident in herself, trust her instincts and not seek so much validation from others.

Founding Partners
  • Bowness Family Foundation
  • Naomi Milgrom Foundation
Major Government Partners
  • City of Melbourne Arts Grants Program
  • Creative Victoria
Major Partners
  • Maddocks

PHOTO Australia respectfully acknowledges the traditional custodians of the lands upon which we work and live, and the rich and diverse Indigenous cultures across what is now called Australia. For over 60,000 years, Indigenous arts and culture have thrived on this sacred land, and we honour Elders and cultural leaders past and present. This was, and always will be, Aboriginal land.

01–24 March