Rachel Nixon is a British-Canadian fine art photographer and former journalist based in Vancouver.

Having lived and worked across continents and cultures, Rachel explores issues such as a desire for connection with one’s heritage, and the wider world. She also considers themes such as secrecy, isolation and memory.

In 2019, Rachel graduated with honours from the VanArts professional photography program. Her work has since been exhibited internationally and received accolades including three Julia Margaret Cameron Awards. Her series The Garden of Maggie Victoria is part of the 2023 Pacific Northwest Drawers showcase at Blue Sky Gallery in Portland.

Before committing full-time to visual art, she worked for 20 years as a journalist and news executive for organizations including the BBC, CBC and Microsoft.

Rachel holds a first class honours degree from the University of Oxford in Modern Languages and Literature, and is fluent in French and German. Her international experience brings with it a unique perspective on the questions of identity, place and belonging, and the connections we share despite our polarized times.

Statement:

The Garden of Maggie Victoria: Artist statement

The Garden of Maggie Victoria explores memory and female representation through the story of my great-grandmother, forgotten within my family after her premature death in 1943.

I first learned about Maggie Victoria in January 2022 as I dug through our unruly family archives. Her somehow familiar face emerged from a set of photos mostly captured by her husband – my great-grandfather Frank – a keen amateur photographer in Lancashire, England. Wanting to revive my great-grandmother’s legacy, I integrated those images, archival letters and other found materials with my own nature-oriented photographs made in Vancouver, where I live.

Following a fast-moving illness, Maggie Victoria took her last breath during wartime, aged only 56. As was often the way, Frank quickly re-married, and no one talked about her after that – not even her children. Maggie Victoria’s story was thus erased for decades, but through the archives I got to know her as a mother, wife, proud gardener and – importantly – a woman.

Many of the images Frank made of his wife show her in domestic settings. This series reworks scans of those images with my own photographs tracking the changing seasons, in distant Canada. In the digital collage “A Capable Woman”, we see an older Maggie Victoria doing the ironing, while in a letter Frank expresses alarm that his wife insists on keeping the house in order even though she is ailing.

This project is an attempt to render Maggie Victoria visible, and a call to women to take up space. In recovering these images from disorganized piles, I have sought to construct new visual narratives from old stories. Further, in discussing this still-evolving project, others have shared with me their own familial tale of loss, mystery or secrecy. Anchored in a personal meditation, the series invites us to consider issues of heritage, grief and the passing of time affecting us all.