A documentary photographer engages art and environmentalism.
Photos, from left: Rachelle Klapheke, US/Mexico Border, 2013. People's Climate March, New York City, 2014. Newburgh, New York, 2013
Rachelle Klapheke participated in the very first Eco Practicum in the Catskill mountains in 2012, and she’s been an integral part of our community ever since. As an intern and subsequent member of our program development team that cooperatively designed the New York City practicum, Rachelle has always been one part environmentalist, one part artist. After graduating from NYU with a degree in Photography and Imaging, Rachelle worked for the New Yorker Magazine and currently works for MSNBC while continuing to pursue her personal projects, which tend to blur the lines between documentary and art. Here are just a few of her photos, you can see much more at www.RachelleKlapheke.com
What work do you do and what lessons from Eco Practicum do you apply at your job?
I'm currently working as a freelance photographer and photo editor. My profession requires me to be continually up-to-date on current events, and also to have a solid elevator-pitch ready on my strengths and interests. I’ve always known that, ultimately, my goal is to make a difference when it comes to the environment, and that no matter what my path in life is, it must engage my environmental values. Eco Practicum allowed me to explore the ways in which I could expand my day-to-day actions and ideologies in order to make a greater environmental difference, and it gave me an opportunity to stay involved with the causes I was concerned with.
What are the most fulfilling and most challenging parts of what you do?
In New York, everyone wants to be an artist, and I’m constantly wondering how to set myself apart from my peers and create interesting work. Whether I'm working as a photographer or photo editor or engaging with the environmental movement somehow, I feel that I'm impacting someone in the sense that my job is always outreach. Whether I'm producing art or working with Eco Practicum, my goal is always to convey a message and it's exciting to realize the potential I have to create change in that way.
Describe a moment or situation that helped you realize your passion?
When I was 19 I decided I wanted to lose weight and get in shape, and my obsessive investigation into all things diet-related sort of mutated into an obsession with organic farming. I began to realize that all the fads and theories I was reading about were nothing but fleeting, shallow internet obsessions, and that my real journey should be getting in touch with my food sources and understanding the most basic, intuitive methods of food production and consumption. Everything I'd always cared about involving waste-reduction and environmentalism sort of came together during that time, and I began to realize how connected all my values really were.
What advice do you have for people looking for meaningful work?
The best place to start when looking for meaningful work is to live a meaningful lifestyle. If you can implement your values on a small scale, it's easier to figure out what drives you and what really gets you up in the morning. You have to be willing to try things to figure out whether or not they fit your interests and your abilities. I'm always surprised by what I end up being comfortable with, and what I feel is my most effective course of action, but it's always a trial-and-error process to figure it out. Eco Practicum was an especially great experience in the sense that I was able to explore so many courses of action, and I was given the time I needed to figure out which one was my own and what my place was in the environmental movement.
What’s one thing you think everyone should know how to do?
Everyone should know how to cook. I think the more skills you can acquire for self-sufficiency, the better off you are.
We ask our network of alumni, experts, and educators to consider the state of the world and their role in it ... here's what they have to say.