A social documentary photographer based in Seattle, Raphael Gaultier’s work is centred around cultural preservation and capturing the intimacies of daily life. His latest series, The Last Whispers of the Light, focuses on what home means. Exploring his relationship with family life, the city he grew up in and the ways in which he’s transitioned from childhood into adulthood, the series is currently a work in progress.
As part of our online content we believe that discussing the efforts, approach and process behind the project are just as important as the story itself. In our category The Process we ask a series of questions that discuss and explore the approach taken in different aspects of creating, looking at new and old projects, we explore the stories, thoughts, meanings and process behind it all from how a project starts, exploring inspirations and reasoning behind work, to the experiences and mindset of developing a project.
JT: How do you start a project?
RG: For me, it usually doesn’t start with a project at all. I just start shooting something close to me and then the project begins to take shape later on when I’m able to connect certain dots with the pictures I’m taking. This process has been really nice in terms of not putting too much pressure on myself to create something great immediately. Meaningful pictures usually arise from hundreds of failures. Instead of letting those failures discourage me, I try to let them inform where I’m headed.
JT: How do you first encounter the places and people you work with? (maybe you could talk about this project in particular and your family) totally up to you.
RG: It usually just happens organically without photography playing a role. Whether it’s moving into an apartment in a new neighbourhood or meeting someone new, it’s funny how things can start to click. With this project that I’m working on right now, The Last Whispers of the Light, my family situation is always something that I’ve wanted to share, but not really had the tools to express. Now that I’m starting to find the means to capture those feelings, it’s felt really organic, especially because I’m so close with my family which I’m really grateful for.
JT: What message, if any, do you try to put into your work?
RG: I always try to put messages of love and happiness in the work I make. There’s enough negative messaging out there in the world that we consume every day, that I’d love for my work to be a collection that promotes togetherness.
JT: What and how do you try to be unique in your creative endeavours? Please explain.
RG: This is something that I struggle with. It often feels like everything’s been done before which can be really depressing to think about, but I’m starting to let go of that way of thinking. No one shares your unique life experience and that in itself is special. Knowing that you’re the only you out there makes it easier to make work that’s more authentically you!
JT: When do you feel most inspired?
RG: Either early in the morning before any else is awake or late in the day when the sun is going down. There’s something about those magical parts of the day where it feels like you can think more clearly and experience things with a fresh perspective.
JT: Do you ever create hidden meanings or messages in your work? Explain
RG: I’m not consciously including hidden meanings too often, but I sometimes like to include subtleties that hint at what a loving relationship looks like. Whether that’s a relationship between people or a relationship with a space/place, I enjoy capturing that in small ways.
JT: What part of you do you share in your own work?
RG: I share the love I have for my city in a lot of my work. Whenever location scouting for an editorial shoot I’m doing, I look to highlight parts of my city that go unnoticed. This city’s home to me in so many ways, and I try my best to honor that in my personal work as well as commission work.
JT: What is the best advice that you have been given?
RG: To take your time. Our world, especially photography, is incredibly fast-paced. I’ve struggled with remaining authentic to myself because of how fast I was working. In the past year I’ve tried to be more intentional with my thoughts and my work, and a big part of that has been slowing down my process and my way of thinking. Whether it be the act of shooting or the creative choices I make in my day to day, I try not to let short-term validation interfere with creating something meaningful.
JT: What is your inspiration? How has personal experience influenced your creativity?
RG: Oof, this is a tough question. Plenty of things inspire me! Conversations with friends, long solo walks through my neighbourhood, a book I’m reading. I try to let my life inform my creativity instead of having it come from a place that’s inorganic, if that makes sense. There’s endless inspiration on the Internet but I’ve found that when I get caught up in that, my work suffers as a result because of how I end up comparing myself and my journey to others.
See more of Raphael’s work Here.