Rachel Been is a photographer and cheese aficionado. In addition to Billboard, she has worked with AOL, TimeOut, Apple, The Smithsonian, Magnum Photos, Slideluck Potshow, The Brooklyn Brainery. Most importantly, she recently hand-coded her mother’s website. She tweets @rachellarabeen, Instagrams @Billboard (http://web.stagram.com/n/billboard/), and blogs on Tumblr.
As a creative director what problem are you trying to solve? How?
Since I work in a very mainstream, pop-culture oriented website, one of the problems I attempt to solve is: how do you create elegant and visually sophisticated experiences that appeal to a mass market audience? I could produce paparazzi fodder (and sometimes I do) that produces an exponential amount of pageviews, but how can I reach a quantifiable level of success with more nuanced material? It’s tricky sometimes, especially when you’re inhibited by existing frameworks.The recent launch of our Billboard Music Awards site, www.billboard.com/bbma is a good example of a mass market product shifting into something less overwhelming and more spacious. I was additionally surprised this weekend after posting nuanced, non-celebrity-driven, artistic images on our Instagram account. They were some of the most appreciated images that we’ve produced.
What was the most important thing that you’ve learned in the past year and how did you learn it?
This might sound advertorial because you guys run a coding site…but the most important thing I’ve learned in the past year was how to code. More so than learning the semantics (because I’m definitely still not fluent) was learning how much I loved learning it—and, how much easier it made both my job and life.Intially I became an avid learner beacause I wanted the developers I worked with to do exactly what I wanted for Billboard.com—and I wanted my wedding website to not be some canned piece of s**t. I learned code with the help of my best friend, Tyson Evans (who wants to kill me now everytime I ask code questions), A List Apart and lots of Googling.
If you could design an app that would solve any problem in the world, what would it be?
I would design the let-me-take-your-picture-while-I-pretend-to-look-at-my-iphone application that instantaneously gathers food & drink interests from your foursquare account, music from your spotify account, and employment information from your facebook account. A gross abuse of privacy, but a way to avoid awkward and monotonous interactions at house parties.
What are the top five things you can’t live without?
1. My oversized and collapsible men’s Ray Ban sunglasses converted to my glasses. Stop taking them off of my face everyone! I don’t wear them for fun, I’m blind.
2. A Canon full-frame 5D (now Mark II) and that beautiful 35 1.4L lens (sorry I borrowed it for such a long time, I finally have my own, you know who you are).
3. My euphoria inducing massive iMac.
4. Ben Brown, who even though annoyingly calls me Kreaychel, or Beenyance or Lana Del Raychel, or a dozen other terrible incarnations of my name hybridized with pop-singers’ names, I love him dearly.
5. Good running shoes. I love running and have fat feet. Bad running shoes = premature arthritis in my right big toe. Good running shoes = best kickstart ever.
What was the best advice you’ve ever been given?
Ms. VonBreton, my journalism advisor in high school, encouraged me to shoot photos for the high school newspaper. I have a distinct memory of shooting one of of my first images for the newspaper with a dinky camera; we were in a crowded hallway in the art building, something high-school-newsworthy was happening and I was snapping images. Ms. VonBreton snuck up behind me and told me, “Get closer, always get closer.”
When used wisely, that advice has served me well.
see my images + curatorial skills on Billboard’s instagram account @Billboard