INTERVIEW: Lucie Rachel

Fòcas Programme Director Katherine Parhar interviews Fòcas artist Lucie Rachel, a photographer based in Dundee about her project Mother Father.

© Lucie Rachel

F: Mother Father follows your parents’ relationship from its beginning, through marriage, your parent’s coming out, separation from your mother and gender transition. How did you go about documenting this intimate story that is – still – so much part of your own life’s fabric?

L: Well it’s a huge story, and of course it’s still a situation that’s ever moving, so I approached the project – and my parents – tentatively. I know it was a huge ask so I went in with no expectations. The aim of the project wasn’t initially to make a book or a film, but to listen and to make work in response to my parents’ experiences and how I also fit into them. The only real aim was to listen and try to understand their stories, how my sister and I fit into them and how the story fit into a wider context. We talked a lot, in person and over email, and they both sent me materials like photos and letters in their own time over many months. They both of course had very different perspectives and experiences, so there was a lot of trust involved in giving me access to their often intimate and private material that must have been pretty scary and strange to share. The most challenging part of the project was the edit; how to tell the story with authenticity and sensitivity whilst keeping a balance between being objective as a storyteller and remembering I’m their daughter and these are their lives.

© Lucie Rachel

F: Has the process of making this project affected your own, or your family’s, trajectory in any way?

L: It’s certainly impacted our family, in many ways. This was the first time my mother had spoken openly about any of this in more than 30 years, so I think it’s helped her to release of a lot of bottled up emotions. I think it’s changed all of us in some way, being able to work through some of these things we’d never spoken about…it’s brought us all closer and perhaps started to clear the air. In terms of my practice, beginning this project was really the start of my career in documentary – in its many forms. The film Mother Father that accompanied the book also received some attention, which helped me to gain my first documentary commission with the Scottish Documentary Institute for Where We Are Now (2016), so it really was Mother Father that started me on my journey

© Lucie Rachel

F: The short documentary you made in 2016, Where Are We Now, was selected by the British Council as one of their FiveFilms4Freedom and it’s been shown around the world; how does that feel for you?

L: It’s pretty cool to have my work seen by so many people at such an early stage in my career, but it’s also very humbling. While the UK are trying to keep moving forward with LGBT rights, there are many countries where LGBT rights are either receding or non-existent. Some of the audience were in places where those aspects of their identity aren’t being validated or acknowledged, sometimes even facing persecution, so using film to reach out to people in those countries is really important and I’m glad I could be a small part of it.

Lucie Rachel is a lens-based artist working with still and moving image to explore themes of domesticity, gender and the unspoken. Since graduating as one of the RSA New Contemporaries in 2015 she has directed award winning shorts with the Scottish Documentary Institute, Glasgow Film, and Arts Council England. Lucie lives and works in Dundee where she is a committee member of Tin Roof Arts Collective, Dundee Ceramics Workshop and Cupar Arts Festival.