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Student creates world of her own through photography

When you have a real passion for something, it only makes sense to do everything in your power to continuously grow with that passion. That’s what photography senior Rachael Koscica has been doing with her photography for over six years.

Koscica started doing photography in high school.

“I became interested as a sophomore, when I saw my brother working in the darkroom,” she said.

Koscica said she used to paint before becoming interested in photography, but there was a certain allure in the quickness of photography compared to painting.

“Painting takes so long," Koscica said. "Taking photos and developing just gives you that final product much faster."

During that time, Koscica began with portraiture. She started photographing friends and learned how to use 35 mm film, develop and use a darkroom. Now Koscica shoots a huge variety of photographs, including weddings, portraits, engagements and fashion. She also creates surreal photo manipulations, often using herself as the subject.

“When I was a junior or senior in high school, I started getting asked to take pictures for people," Koscica said. "I started taking senior portraits, and I realized I could make a living off of my photography.”

Koscica soon found herself with a demand for her skills and creativity, as well as a lot of positive feedback from her clients.

"Rachael’s originality and creativity is what makes the pictures so brilliant," said client Irene Ashu.

Besides making money from her shoots, Koscica works as a lab aid at ASU and worked for the University's marketing team during the summer.

“Eventually, I want to be able to shoot events like weddings on weekends and earn a living that way," Koscica said. "Then I can focus on my own art during the week.”

She also shared how she got into surreal self-portraits and photo manipulations.

“One day, I took a picture of myself with my cat. It was super goofy and I used a dinky little point-and-shoot. I then started experimenting with using myself as a character in my surreal world because it was easier than trying to explain to someone what I wanted to do,” Koscica said. "I also had the complete support of my teacher, so I just went from there.”

Koscica said she wants to immerse her art's viewers in this surreal world.

"My photography teacher once said to me that the best photographs are the ones with the most dense ideas, ones that you can think about for a while," she said.

One of Koscica’s favorite places to shoot is underwater. In much of her underwater photography, she includes the element of surrealism.

“That started while I was on vacation," Koscica said. "I went into Barnes & Noble and saw this book by Howard Schatzcalled 'H2O'. I thought it was awesome."

After that, she made a deal with her father in which she cleaned his bathroom every weekend during the summer in exchange for an underwater camera from Costco. According to Koscica, the camera was hard to use so she saved up enough to buy an underwater housing for her Canon.

Koscica has come a long way since her sophomore year of high school. She’s proven to be hot business in the photography world with photo publications in Vogue Italia’s PhotoVogue, a feature on Urban Outfitters’ blog representing Phoenix and an entire article in Photo Masterskaya Magazine in Russia dedicated to her skill.

“The magazine was really cool, because they reached out to me and did a whole central piece featuring one of my self-portraits,” Koscica said.

Besides talent and dedication, Koscica credits her photography success with her schooling. As a Chandler/Tempe native, Koscica chose to stay in-state for college.

When looking at schools, Koscica found herself considering ASU's highly regarded photography program and UA's distance from home.

NAU's photography program was too commercial for her, Koscica said.

“There, I would’ve learned how to take a really well-lit picture of a car with equipment and lights all around it, but I can learn that elsewhere," she said. "At ASU, they teach you how to be an artist. They teach you the language of photo and how to speak through visual art. I think that’s harder to obtain on your own because here you have people giving you feedback and critiquing you."

The senior project for photography students at ASU comes in the form of a "Senior Exhibition." Koscica will take the class next semester, where she and other students will organize a collaborative show, each getting a wall to display their work.

"The show forces seniors to gain real show experience and collaborate with people in that kind of setting," said Koscica.

This semester will give Koscica time to really figure out what she’ll want to display, as well as try some new tricks with her photos.

“At ASU, it’s really free. ... That’s how I’ve been able to spend all this time honing in on the craft of making surreal worlds, and using objects and symbolism to portray a story and say something about my work,” Koscica said.

She said she wants to use a large-format camera (an 1840s-style view camera) and large-format negatives to combine the worlds of film and digital.

Going to school for a fine art is a little scary, but Koscica’s got the whole thing down.

“If you go to school for an art degree, you do it because you love it. Don’t do it for the money," Koscica said." If you really want something in your life, you just have to dedicate yourself and really go for it and chances are you’ll get it.”


Reach this reporter at or through Twitter @teenyanguyen

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