Rachel Greiman, Unraveled | An Interview
Rachel Greiman is a copywriter and documentary family photographer in Philadelphia, PA. She owns Green Chair Stories, a company committed to taking photos and writing words that look and sound like real people. She also believes cookies are a perfectly acceptable breakfast food, as long as you eat some salad later. She lives with her giant dog (an 80-pound bernedoodle named Bernadette), her giant husband (a 6'6" man named Travis), and her lil (but probably soon to be giant) baby in a townhouse in the city.
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Here is Rachel, Unraveled….
What inspired your art?
To me, photos + words have always been inseparable. I think it is because I’m a verbal processor and perpetual over-explainer. I think it’s really important to be clear about what you say and mean, so I think I’ve been drawn to any medium that helps bring clarity. Photos are moments, but not always explanations. And words are ideas, but not always proof.
My work is about making people feel seen, heard, and understood. So I’ve always used photos + words together so my clients feel those things fully.
What do you shoot with? Camera body and favorite lens?
I shoot with a Canon 5D Mark iii for my clients and a Fuji xt-2 for funsies.
What other ways do you express your creativity?
I would love to say it’s in how I dress or with cooking but #oppositeday. I wear all black and eat cereal and sandwiches almost every single day. I’ve tried to care more about what I wear and how to eat, but it’s just not happening. Honestly, I feel like I express my creativity in conversations more than anything else. I’m wired to get to the heart of a matter. So I tend to approach conversations with friends with a goal in mind. Even if it’s just that I want them to leave the conversation feeling better about themselves or their situation. My brain is constantly searching for something valuable to say to someone. It’s a blessing and a curse because it’s not always my responsibility nor do people always want that. I’m trying to harness it for good though.
How do you de-stress at the end of the day?
My daughter’s current nighttime routine is the most meditative part of my life. I nurse her for 10 minutes and she is sleepy and giggly and so, so happy. My husband sits on the bed next to us the whole time because she will not nurse unless she knows where he is. It’s such a sweet time in my day and I swear it signals my brain that it’s time to relax. Oh and also wine sometimes. And ice cream/cookies/gummy bears.
What kind of music do you listen to while editing?
I actually watch TV on a separate screen normally. I binge-watch old shows like Grey’s Anatomy or Gilmore Girls or Friends. And if I’m feeling like I have the brain space, I will sometimes listen to podcasts. My Favorite Murder is good for when I don’t want to get too many business ideas and be distracted from my editing.
When I write, I don’t have anything on. Not even ambient sound. I gotta FOCUS when I have someone else’s voice in my brain/fingertips.
What is your favorite book?
Easy! Where’d you go Bernadette? by Maria Semple. I’m actually not the biggest fan of fiction usually, but this book felt like it was written for me. From the creativity of the voices to the dark humor and details. We even named our dog after it!
Name one movie that inspires you.
The artist in me wants to say something super indie like Rachel Getting Married (which I do actually really love). But then the self-conscious me that knows other people are going to read this and judge me feels like I should say something cliche about the beauty of Wes Anderson films (which honestly I’m not into at all).
But ya know what? Dammit if The Notebook isn’t my favorite movie. Eye roll, I know. But think about it. This makes sense for me. Noah preserved their life in writing and told her their story over and over until she came back to him. He was so clear about who he was and what he wanted and I don’t think I will ever have that kind of determination for anything. Plus Ryan Gosling is just not difficult to look at. Sue me.
How do you handle self-doubt or creative slumps?
First thing first, I put down my phone. Almost all of my self-doubt is created by the internet and social media. We have way too much access to the rest of the world, which sounds awesome in theory. That we could just celebrate the creativity all around us at any given moment. But because someone decided we should quantify creativity with numbers of followers and lil hearts, we end up viewing other people’s success as our failure.
Second thing second, I ask my husband to tell me I’m pretty and that he is proud of me. I say, “I’m feeling anxious and like I’m no good at any of this.” And he mentallyreaches back into the rolodex of compliments that have worked in the past and kindly repeats them like mantras for my little heart. I used to be embarrassed that I needed outside affirmation to feel better. But I think accepting that this is my truth actually helps me move past the doubt faster and more efficiently and with less drama for everyone.
What has been the most difficult part of your creative journey?
Probably being in charge. I really just wanna be a hype girl in life, helping everyone around me feel really good about themselves and their work. But owning your own business and assigning a dollar amount to its worth is both exhausting and isolating. It’s my job if something goes wrong. There is no one else to tell me not to forget to answer the email, schedule the shoot, organize my newsletter calendar. Sometimes I wish I could just be more of a support person for someone else—someone with a bigger and better vision who knows exactly who they are and what they have to offer the world.
But then I remind myself that I do get to be a hype girl every day. I get to write words for people who haven’t been able to find them. I get to photograph moms who feel buried by the monotony of daily tasks and show them that their “mom-ness” is the hardest and most beautiful job in the world. When I remember these things, I think it’s all worth it.
Who is one of your favorite photographers?
This answer changes every day. Lately, I’m really into Rowena Meadows from @dayinyourlifeproject … she is brilliant and weird and wonderful and I wanna be her when I grow up.
Also, the first photographer I ever wrote copy for never ceases to amaze me with her vision and work ethic: Katherine Marchand from @wildescoutephoto.co