Rachael Banks is an Assistant Professor of Photography at Northern Kentucky University (August 2016-Present). She is the photography area coordinator and faculty advisor for the student-run organization Students Against Average Photography (SAAP). Rachael is a Louisville, KY native and currently based in Covington, KY. She received an MFA in photography at Texas Woman’s University and a BA in photography from Bellarmine University.

Rachael's work focuses primarily on family dynamics, relationships, and nostalgia. She is especially interested in social subcultures and identity informed by place. Her ongoing project, Between Home and Here, is a narrative series about guilt, assumed family, and life in a landlocked state. Rachael is an avid supporter of self-publishing, accessible art, zines, and collecting. She is inspired by artists who work in collaboration with each other and their community.

Her teaching research examines use social media platforms as means of self-promotion, contemporary trends that relate to artistic practice, professional work ethic, social awareness, and conceptual thinking.

Rachael holds great value in being both an educator and a working artist. She welcomes any opportunities that relate to visiting institutions, conducting portfolio reviews, guest lectures, and collaborative efforts.

Between Home and Here 

2014 – present

I am the oldest of three, but more like a mother than a sister. I constructed a family of siblings, both real and assumed. Between Home and Here addresses deeply internalized guilt and the essence of loved ones.

This is a story about hating and loving where you are from. It comes from doing anything to go back to a place you left.

I left my heart in the Midwest and came back to find it. The photographs are artifacts from my search.

Q&A: Northern Kentucky University

Why Northern Kentucky University? 

One of the most prominent features of Northern Kentucky University’s photography program is the focus on using “real-world” applications in the classroom. The curriculum we develop is based on what is actually going on in the photography industry (both commercial and fine art) and what students are interested in. Currently, the majority of our photography students have an interest in working in the freelance commercial photography industry so we make sure that they are more than adequately prepared to enter that field upon graduation. Our studio courses are smaller, which allow for our students to receive an adequate amount of individual attention. We also have incredible facilities that include a state of the art digital studio equipped with ProPhoto gear, an iMAC lab with Smart Classroom equipment, and a print center with five Epson printers that is operated by student lab technicians.

One of my favorite things about the photography program at Northern Kentucky University is my colleagues. I am proud to work with Chris Smith and Matthew Albritton and I value that all of us having very different teaching styles and approaches to photography. This is something that is beneficial for our students and they have even vocalized their appreciation for our vast diversity in teaching style. This makes our program valuable in that we are able to give our students variety and a well-rounded educational experience. We also embrace a trans-disciplinary approach to learning and art-making. The School of the Arts at Northern Kentucky University fosters a population of students that are highly communal. It is not uncommon for photography students to experiment in other media and academic studies. I have found that many students’ photographic work has flourished under the influence of other fields of study.

What courses do you teach? 

I have a 3/3 load and teach Photography I, Photography II, Advanced Concepts in Photography, and Web and Social Media for Artists. I love teaching the web class because it isn’t solely a photography course so it allows me to learn more about other visual arts students on campus. I am also teaching a Travel Photography class through CCSA during winter 2017-18. This is a course that is open to any interested undergraduates nationwide and I am still accepting applications!

Our program is undergraduate level only. I think this is a great aspect of our program because it permits me time to devote full commitment to ensure that the undergraduate students coming out of NKU’s program are prepared for any graduate programs they may wish to attend. However, I am always interested in studio visits with graduate students and collaboration with graduate programs.

How does your program bridge the gap between traditional and contemporary photographic practices? 

We allow the use of film, although it is rare and when it is used, it tends to be in the form of instant film that is scanned and printed digitally. In the advanced concepts course, there is experimentation with alternative processes. The program has more of a focus on contemporary practices and is kept to pace with current photographic practices. Several new media students at NKU take photography courses as well which gives opportunity for collaborative work.

Describe the output for photographs. 

Students are required to print and we have an excellent digital printing facility. We also have a wet darkroom that is available for student use. All students that go through our photography program are encouraged to gain proficiency and experiment with digital printing techniques.

Describe the critique format. 

Typically, critiques are reserved for enrolled students only. Visiting artists are encouraged to do portfolio reviews with students but it is optional. Student critiques are both written and verbal so that there is documentation of peer notes. All critiqued projects are printed/physical bodies of work.

 Where can we keep up with your department online?

What other artists should we be keeping an eye on?

Nathan Pearce, Jake Reinhart, Kevin O'Meara, Nicole Norman, Tara Wray, and Tammy Mercure are photographers who I am excited about right now!