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Rachel Barkman is a wife, photographer, dog lover and nature enthusiast living in the Lower Mainland of British Columbia, Canada. She's big on community over competition, campfires with close friends, and spending more nights under the stars.
In other words, she's our kind of people. 

So long story short. We've been stalking Rachel via the internet for quite some time (that's normal these days right?) and have simply fallen in love with the way she documents the place where she lives and the people she cares about. We knew we wanted to find a way to collaborate with her and when she mentioned that herself and 8 other Vancouver-based photographers were off to Pender Island for a creative retreat weekend we told her shut the front door! ...and wait until UPS delivered a bunch of Camp goodies for her and the gang to take with them on their adventure, to open it. 

Thankfully she understood our sarcastic sense of humour and literally shut her front door and waited for the package.

Get the full deets below from our chat with Rachel about her life as a photographer in the Vancouver area and the inside scoop on the Dwell on Pender retreat. Conclusion; next time we're tagging along, invited or not! 

Hey Rachel! First off we’d love to know more about who you are. You live in Vancouver, actually Pitt Meadows right? And you’re a photographer. Seems like a sweet gig! How did you get started with that and what do you like best about it? Bonus Points: Tell us something nifty about Pitt Meadows, it sounds pretty cool to us.

I stumbled into photography during an interesting season in my life. I had just suffered a career ending injury as a university level basketball player, and my brother decided to hand-me-down his old DSLR. I was instantly in love with this new creative outlet, and before I knew it, people were asking to hire me to shoot their family sessions and weddings. This grew and expanded into weddings and outdoor photography, which was greatly influenced by our move to Pitt Meadows. Pitt Meadows is a small town with all the perks of a bigger city. In ten minutes, I can drive to the mall in Coquitlam, or I can be completely immersed in mountains, lakes, and farmland. This small town is big on community, and we usually meet our neighbours outside on the street on Friday evenings to have a beer and spend time together.  Sometimes living here feels like a fairy tale (it is often used to film shows like Once Upon A Time, so it really isn’t too far off!).

What?! Jealous. We're wondering if you've met Ginnifer Goodwin...but actually, why don't you tell us about Dwell. What exactly is it and how did it all get started? Also, did all of the photographers know each other beforehand or was it a bit of a blind date?

Dwell was born out of my desire to create deeper community amongst wedding photographers and videographers in the Vancouver area. I’m passionate about nature and community, so I began dreaming up ways to bring these two passions together and also bless my fellow professionals. The idea for a retreat came pretty quickly, and I reached out to a handful of photographers who I knew (though some of them I had only met briefly once or twice!). I expected maybe a few of them to say yes, but to my surprise – all 8 ladies were immediately on board. Many of the girls had never met each other before, or had only known about each other through the industry, but never spent time together. The ferry ride over to Pender Island was full of nerves and giggles, but we all quickly bonded and forged deep friendships throughout the weekend.

Dwell became what I called this dream, because not only were we taking the opportunity to rest and dwell in a beautiful place, but also learning to dwell in community at a level much deeper than we’d ever known before. To me, community abolishes the need to compare and compete. We all struggle with feeling lesser than our peers, but when we take the time to know each other’s stories, we realize that we are all in this together, and we can celebrate each other, encourage one another, and all have room to succeed. This doesn’t just occur in a short coffee meeting or day-long adventure (though those things are great in their own right!), community is built by doing life together in close quarters. There’s nothing like sleep deprivation and sharing a bed with someone to really get down to the nitty-gritty. By sharing a home together, we were really encouraged to let down our walls and be vulnerable with one another. It was a really powerful and significant time for all of us.

"There’s nothing like sleep deprivation and sharing a bed with someone to really get down to the nitty-gritty. By sharing a home together, we were really encouraged to let down our walls and be vulnerable with one another. It was a really powerful and significant time for all of us."

Why did you choose Pender as the setting for your retreat-esque weekend? Is there something significant to you about the atmosphere of the Pacific Northwest for either photography or connecting as a group?

I chose Pender Island as our location because I wanted a destination that was close by, but still felt like a luxurious getaway. I’ve been enjoying exploring many of the smaller islands off the coast of Vancouver lately because the pace of life immediately slows you down and makes you breathe the air more deeply. Plus, the AirBnB I stumbled upon was the perfect fit for our group, and gems like that are hard to find! The PNW has truly captured my heart, and I’m constantly looking for new places to explore. Pender was fairly new to most of us, so it seemed like a great place to set up camp for four days. Bringing people to a new place gave us common ground in our experience.

It looks like you had a blast on the Island! What did you get up to while you were there? Any noteworthy shenanigans for the books or was it all business with a capital B-usiness? Any tears of joy or otherwise, shed?

The home we stayed in was fully equipped to keep us occupied, so much of our time was spent eating charcuterie and drinking wine around the fire while sharing our personal stories and bonding over our experiences in the industry. I would be lying if I said there weren’t tears, because there were many. There is nothing like vulnerable sisterhood to get me fired up and so enamoured at the strength and beauty of my own gender. These ladies make me not only proud to be a woman, but also proud to stand beside them as a professional in this industry.

I didn’t want the weekend to be focused on the business aspect of things, but rather being creative with one another. We spent a lot of time exploring the beach just outside the home. We experimented together with long exposures, smoke bombs, and fairy lights. We took dips in the hot tub and watched the sun set and rise. We ventured out to a nearby beach and had a picnic lunch. We walked through an enchanted forest and explored tree-lined roads. We climbed a few hills and watched eagles soar along the ocean. The beauty of this island seemed endless.

Do you have any words of wisdom for photographers or other kinds of groups looking to put together a retreat style weekend? .... Is it kind of like organizing Summer Camp for adults? 'Cause that sounds kinda fun!

Every community, industry, and city is different, but I would tell people to not be afraid to be bold. Invite people you don’t know well, or don’t know at all. The beauty of doing something like this is that it can make an incredible weekend getaway very affordable. Sharing an AirBnB rental with 8 other women made for a trip that was nice to all of our bank accounts. When you approach people, have a budget in mind, a location already selected, and a vision in place. This will really help communicate your ideas, and get people on board.

Any plans to do it again sometime soon?

I really hope we can continue the momentum of Dwell in various ways. A yearly retreat is likely to happen, along with other community day-long events in between to keep the camaraderie going. Many women have already reached out to me because Dwell speaks to them in some way, so I’m really looking forward to how we can continue building relationships and building each other up in this industry (and having a rad time in nature while doing it!).

To see more from the all of the ladies involved in the Dwell on Pender weekend check out the #DwellonPender hashtag on Instagram.

Dwell on Pender full lineup:
Rachel Barkman - @rachelbarkman
Danaea Godard - @danaealiphotography
Meghan Bustard - @meghanbustard
Madison Ogilvie - @madsthesedays
Laine Mostert - @lainemostert

Sarah Pothecary - @alba.sarah
Erin Carlson - @hellotmrw
Kat Grabowski - @artandtheaerialist
Michelle Karst - @michellekarst


Emma said:

Hi! Would Rachel be able to share the link for the airbnb? Looks great!

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