Rachel Penry Langlois (@penrystudio) is a Houston-based fine art portrait photographer with a focus on conceptual art pieces. Having grown up on a ranch, she was raised with sustainability in mind and has a passion for beekeeping, gardening, and sharing environmental information. With roots in teaching, she eventually became a full-time photographer, but she wanted to find a way to mix her educational, environmental, and artistic interests. Rachel began reading about how resource scarcity was leading to higher levels of violence against women. Wanted to use her art to speak out about these issues, Rachel created the Disappearing Earth Series.
Photo by Rachel Penry Langlois. Sony Alpha 7R III. Sony 50mm f/1.8. 1/200-sec., f/2.8, ISO 80
Learn more about Rachel Penry Langlois’ Disappearing Earth Series – a set of portraits of girls or young women with plant and animal species that are endangered.
The Disappearing Earth Series is a set of portraits of girls or young women with plant and animal species that are endangered. The goal is to bring awareness to the impacts of climate change and the serious effects they are having on life; from girls and young women to plants and animals. Through this project, Rachel blends art, activism, and conservation.
Each shot features the model, always a girl or young woman, “I only use young girls or women because it's kind of touching both on not only climate change, but who's impacted by climate change. Certainly, we’re all impacted by climate change, but globally and in location where where there's extreme climate change, women and young girls end up being the subject of sexual violence and not having resources and not having access to water. And girls are especially impacted by that.” The model is posed with a glass orb, and edited inside the orb is either the species featured or an image of what the future could hold. She focuses on a fairly simplified scene with a strong color story and a clear image of what’s being impacted.
Photo by Rachel Penry Langlois. Sony Alpha 7R III. Sony 50mm f/1.8. 1/160-sec., f/3.2, ISO 160
The Spark Of An Idea
This started as a one-off image, Rachel had her daughter pose for her. “I made a dress out of a trash bag and had her holding this big ball that I then photoshopped into being the Earth. And around her, on the floor are news articles about climate change. And for me, it was my way of thinking through the generations that are going to be impacted by climate change and what we're going to see happening. And so that was kind of what started it. And I didn't even mean for it to be a series, but after that I just felt inspired.”
Making The Images
To come up with species to focus on, Rachel does lots of research on endangered species. She will also visit zoos to learn more about different plants and animals. Once she’s settled on what creature to focus on next, she sources materials. Rachel tries not to buy anything for the project, so she frequently borrows or repurposed objects for the images. After making quite a few of these portraits, she also wants to continue to be creative, not wanting the images to look repetitive. Rachel often pulls inspiration from the species themselves, for example, the glow of a firefly or the color tone of a snake.
Photo by Rachel Penry Langlois. Sony Alpha 7R III. Sony 85mm f/1.4 G Master. 1/160-sec., f/2, ISO 800
Rachel makes the photographs with her Sony Alpha 7R III and her Sony 85mm f/1.4 G Master along with her Godox lighting gear. Some images are shot with her Sony 50mm f/1.8 as well. Many of the photos are shot in her house, or she travels and creates a makeshift studio on-location. For post-processing, Rachel does minute adjustments in Camera Raw and then does the bulk of her processing in Photoshop. In Photoshop, she’s primarily dodging a burning, as she tries to nail the lighting in-camera. Then, depending on the individual shot, she will photoshop an image of the animal in, adding to her artistic creativity.
Photo by Rachel Penry Langlois. Sony Alpha 7R III. Sony 50mm f/1.8. 1/160-sec., f/7.1, ISO 64
Moving forward, Rachel hopes to continue this project and help educate others on environmental issues and how we can make changes to help. “I want people to be aware and really just learn about the small things they can do in their day to day lives, to just help things that I think would benefit all of us.”
Keep up with Rachel's work and the Disappearing Earth Series on her Instagram (@penrystudio).