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.


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