Rebecca LaChance, the Visual Storyteller of Thurmont
“I have lived a very full and adventuresome life,” she says with a half-smile.
Globe trekker, iconographer, medical professional and photographer barely scratch the surface of the life lived by Rebecca LaChance; however, these days, you will find her in Thurmont, Maryland. In the photographic studio where she is busy at work, written on the front window is, “Artistic Portraiture,” and her work is just that.
“I tell the clients that you must see the studio to understand what that is,” Rebecca says.
Rebecca is a portrait photographer, but more than that, she’s a visual storyteller.
“I was a nurse for nearly 40 years and got a Ph.D. in health economics and policy.”
Her medical career brought her to Fort Detrick, but it wasn’t until the mid-1990s that she took an art class. With an interest in classical art, Rebecca studied the old masters. Going all in, she studied under a woman who had been the conservator of iconography for the Bishops’ Conference in Moscow.
“I’m very interested in classical art. The majority of the paintings I did were icons. All icons were painted using 14th-century techniques, and that’s what shows up in the work that I do. The information I accumulated from painting influences how I treat each piece of art and what the purpose of the art is,” she says.
Going from painting to photography seemed like a natural transition.
“I had been coming off several long careers, so I needed a break from people and began landscape photography.”
Rebecca was greatly influenced by Carolyn Mendelsohn Eaglesham, winner of the Gold Medal from the Royal Photographic Society in England. It was she who called Rebecca to do a Wuthering Heights shoot and encouraged her that she could, indeed, pursue portrait photography.
When stepping inside Rebecca’s studio, you might be convinced that the photographs lining the walls are not photographs at all. Some of the pieces of art appear to be vintage, while others, oil paintings. The process begins as Rebecca seeks out the story of the subject, and when she feels she knows the story, it is then that she creates. In order to do this, she must take the time to know the subject.
“I spend a lot of time with each client. I bring them in and have an interview with them. Who do you want to be? Who are you? Tell me your dreams. What do you want people to see about you that they don’t know?” she asks.
From that session, the art unfolds. Using lenses and lighting as her tools, she relies on an inner instinct that directs her.
“If something says for me to do this or that, then I do it!”
Because her desire is to tell the subject’s story, the photographs are digitally manipulated to create these artistic effects that reflect her vision of the subject. Rebecca notes that people are often reticent to come in to be photographed.
“I want them to know they don’t need to be afraid. They may be afraid of letting the world know who they are. I want them to know that I work with them gently and help them step through the process of knowing that you’re OK with wherever you are in your life right now. The gorgeousness is already there, the soul is already there, and together we work to bring it out. When that happens, it’s very fulfilling, not only for me but for the client as well.”
Photographing children as well as adults, Rebecca hosts a Santa series during the Christmas season. The studio is transformed into Santa’s living room, complete with the most authentic Santa. Since she only schedules one session per day, the children delight in spending 45 minutes with old Saint Nick. During their time together, he finds the children’s names in the “nice book,” and then he finds their parents’ names. He reads to them, they sing songs, have cookies and milk, and finally, wind up the magical event by finding the North Pole on the map.
“The children are so enthralled by Santa that after the shoot, they continue to spend time with him as he reads books to them while they sit on his lap. I’m not going to ruin that experience for them!” Rebecca says.
All the while, Rebecca is snapping pictures and capturing the magic.
Rebecca has her roots firmly planted in Thurmont. The same as for her clients, she has a vision for Thurmont and what her studio could be to the town.
“I would like this studio to become a bigger community resource for the town of Thurmont. I have people who travel here from all over the world, and I’d like for them to leave their money in our town. I’m working to develop a team that’s locally based because I want to support this community. I need a very good hair and makeup artist that I want to be from this community. I have an assistant who is from here that has a remarkable eye, and with me, she will learn the effects of lighting and classical art principles.”
Rebecca knows she can make a difference in her town, and she will continue to be a visual storyteller to champion Thurmont and to inspire her community.