A woman who knows a thing or two about adjusting her focus
Shoot your shot, L.A. Momma!
By Anabel Marquez : Photos By Trenton Franklin
I’ll begin by discussing the photography. Because that’s what many people know Rachel Carrillo for— she sorts the chaos of Los Angeles into images that bring clarity to the good moments of life. She has photographed dozens, if not hundreds of people – many of whom have appeared within the pages of Mommy in Los Angeles Magazine over the past five years– including each of the magazine cover moms. And she doesn’t just capture smiling faces. She has a knack for isolating subtle details about her subjects that tell a story better than words can.
I came across her raw, unfiltered talent around 2014, when our first-born kids were babies and the photos Rachel would take of her son Presley felt like pure Los Angeles nostalgia: a baby boy sitting on grandma’s lap with a dog next to them in front of the DTLA Skyline; a sweet snapshot of the boy at Dodgers stadium on a gloomy evening; a little Presley in denim overalls frowning beneath a slide at a local park. The photos were never posed and always provoked a reaction. At the time, I would leave brief comments and simple emojis on her Instagram posts but I knew I wanted to work with Rachel one day.
When the monotony of my full-time government job started begging me to find a creative outlet and I decided to publish a mommy magazine, I reached out to Rachel and asked if she would photograph a mom I was planning to interview. There was a tinge of reluctance at first but she came along for the ride anyway.
“I am fearful of so much that I don’t venture into new things,” she later shared.
Photography was never her plan but it always found its way to her. Rachel was raised in East L.A., a sweet young girl with wounds from a broken home, where her dad was absent and her mom faced many struggles. Her grandfather, however, had a deep love for vintage cameras and when another camera would cross his path while selling junk items at a nearby swap meet, he would buy it and look for Rachel.
“I feel he had something to do with it,” she tells me about her grandpa’s photography influence, “He really helped nurture that in me.”
In high school she joined the yearbook class and was part of the photography club. At 18 years old, she worked at a tattoo shop as a piercer but soon landed a job at a Sears Photography studio where she learned about sales, building trust and dealing with children and families behind the lens.
Still, she had no clear plan for a future in photography, except, in 2014, she purchased a Canon DSLR Camera after giving birth to Presley.
From that point on, Rachel began documenting it all— the happy times, the struggles of parenting, the pain of doing it alone, the joy of having healthy kids, the insecurities of being a sole provider and the heaviness of showing strength when the heart is broken and resources depleted.
In 2017, she posted a black and white photo of herself on Instagram holding her camera and sharing a vulnerable moment of insecurity. In the caption she explained why she shoots: “I refuse to put my camera back in the bag,” she wrote. “There is beauty in the process.”
“I refuse to put my camera back in the bag…There is beauty in the process.”
My goodness. The honor of working with Rachel makes me get teary-eyed as I write this. Her talent has flourished, she launched L.A. Momma Photography and managed to obtain a Bachelor’s Degree while raising two children on her own. Even when she’s down, she gets back up and keeps shooting her shot, meaning, she pulls together the bravery to continue doing things outside of her comfort zone.
So I’ll conclude by discussing the gratitude. Rachel has thanked me throughout the years for exposing her photography skills through the publication of my small, niche magazine project. But in reality, I am the one who’s thankful. Rachel directs her eyes with precision and heart and documents the essence of her subjects. She’s made my stories come to life and remained humble, hard-working and passionate, all while reminding me to stay grounded in gratitude. This, despite a seemingly vicious cycle of gut-wrenching single parenting challenges she’s had to wage war against, every time the forecast starts looking a bit brighter.
I felt it was appropriate to turn the camera on Rachel and shine the light on the talent behind the lens.
Thanks for five years of dedicated loyalty, Rachel.