Hey there. My name is Ralena, but I also go by RaRa and Chili. I was born and raised in Colorado but have also lived in California and Washington D.C. I love traveling and getting lost. I’m an avid people watcher and storyteller, I love capturing the moments that others might miss, and I am absolutely more comfortable behind the camera than in front of it.
I started my photography journey when I was in high school. I learned with a film camera and some rolls of black and white film. Working with film in a dark room taught me about the elegance and simplicity of photos and photo processing. While I now mostly shoot digital, I try to stick to the simplicity of those early darkroom techniques. I want to keep the integrity of the image and I want the images to speak for themselves. I continued taking photography classes in community college and went on to get a BA in creative writing, philosophy, and photography from Goddard College in Vermont. I received a Masters in Media Psychology and Social Change from Fielding University.
Photo-documentary is my passion. For the past decade, I have traveled across the country photographing historic mental institutions and documenting the history of mental illness in the U.S. This project, The Empty Places, is a labor of love and only made possible through fundraising and donations. While I slowly continue to work on The Empty Places project, I enjoy being able to use my background in storytelling and documentary photography to capture special moments and share stories. I would be honored to help you tell your story, whatever that story may be.
AWARDS AND HONORS:
Honorable Mention (top 100 artist) 2015 Chelsea International Fine Art Competition (Juried)
Jury Selected Photographer for 2012 NCAR exhibit
Guest presenter at Coleman Institute for Cognitive Disabilities and Summit Alliance