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Image / Editorial

In living colour: how photographer Rebecca Fahey is creating art during Covid

by Erin Lindsay
22nd Jun 2020

Fun, vibrant, and full of colour – Rebecca Fahey’s creations are exactly what we’ve been missing since Covid began

When you first visit Irish photographer Rebecca Fahey’s Instagram page, it’s sure to blow the cobwebs off. Neon shades of yellow and pink punctuate attitude-filled street style shots, in settings from New York to Dublin. If this is what the inside of Fahey’s brain looks like, I had to know more.

As it turns out, Fahey’s fascination with colour is aided by a rare neurological condition that affects how her brain perceives colour – synaesthesia. From using the condition to her advantage in college, to branching out to New York, IMAGE chatted with Fahey about what it means to be a creative in 2020.

When did you first make the move to New York, and what was it that attracted you to the city?

I recently made the move to New York just because I wanted something different for myself. Living in Ireland for 22 years, I had never experienced what the design scene was like outside of the country. I went on holidays to New York when I was 14, and even though it was a short trip, I just fell in love with it instantly, and planned to move there after college.

The design, the art scene and the people especially just attracted me. It was all so interesting to me, and I couldn’t wait to experience it.

Do you find New York suits your style more than Ireland? What are some of the differences in working between the two?

My style has always been really colourful and bold, and in Ireland, people saw that as quite strange. But when I went to the U.S, there was no issue in expressing myself. Ireland has some amazing creatives, and I didn’t feel held back, but my art was definitely elevated when I moved to New York.

The vibrancy of the people and how expressive they are just made it a bit easier for me to be creative, especially with my style of art. It’s very different to Ireland, and I personally feel like it adds to my work.

How does having synaesthesia affect your photography style and creative vision?

I actually only realised I had synaesthesia for the first time during college. The way you perceive your work can be really different to how others perceive it, and I actually don’t see my images as being as colourful as other people see it.

The type of synaesthesia that I have affects how I see numbers and colours, and how I relate different people back to colours as well. Sometimes I use the colours that I associate with a model to base the set off of for a shoot – I’ll try and pick complementary colours and tones to the colour that I see them as in my head. Say the subject might be an orange or might have violet tones – I’ll try to use that in the shoot around them.

I’m also a graphic designer and even when it comes to typography, I use certain words and certain letter sizes in the colours that I perceive them.

How have you been spending your time during Covid?

I had to come home from New York before lockdown hit, and am using this time to experiment with new ways of shooting, like over Zoom calls, or using apps like Facetime to manipulate photos. It’s been really challenging because it’s not something I was used to, but I really think that it’s going to be a new practice that creatives are going to make use of in the future because of Covid.

I actually was reunited with some lighting and photography equipment that I couldn’t bring with me to New York when I came home, so I’ve been making use of that while shooting myself, and expressing myself through clothing and different backgrounds.

This environment has been restrictive, but creatives are great at asking ‘how can I be as experimental as I can in this space?’ and using it to their advantage.

Do you think the lockdown measures have given creatives the excuse to experiment?

Oh, absolutely. Being restricted does give you a way to explore and experiment, and with Covid, there are so many creatives who used it as a way to get out of their comfort zone and express their feelings and emotions during lockdown.

You always choose subjects that suit your style so well when shooting. Who would be your dream person to shoot?

Oh God, there’s a few! I’m really into this American music artist Dorian Electra, who’s non-binary, they’re really cool.

And then Juno Birch is a U.K-based drag artist and I just think she’s fabulous. They’re both people that I’d love to work with.


What are your plans now that measures are starting to ease?

I’m going to stay and work in Dublin for a while, while waiting for my visa to come through to return to New York. I’m just designing and experimenting with what I have, and now that things are opening up, hopefully I can do so much more on the outside.

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