Rachel Papo


On view April 18 – June 14, 2015

Press Release →

As the criticism of the U.S. education system grows among parents, so has the appeal of homeschooling.

Together with today’s increasingly fast-paced, connected culture, this choice seems an almost natural one for many families. Though still a controversial and heated topic, the number of homeschooled children in America is growing rapidly.

Beginning in 2011 I spent two years photographing a small number of families living in the Catskills who practice homeschooling. Having recently moved to the area with my husband and baby daughter, I decided to explore this controversial topic in depth and challenge my own prejudgments on the issue. Rather than document the parents and their unique methods, I chose to focus on the children, in an attempt to capture their spirit and the meaning of growing up outside the conventional four classroom walls.

This body of work is an attempt to encapsulate a cultural movement in a distinct time in history, on the cusp of it becoming mainstream. As I photographed these children for a few hours each time, I allowed myself to follow them into their mysterious, magical world.

Iris and Roan live on a family farm with their parents, who believe their children would benefit more from spending time within nature and at home, rather than on a school bus and in a classroom. Apart from studying traditional subjects, their daily activities involve helping with farm work and discovering their own topics of interest.

True assists her father with outdoor tasks and is being taught various subjects with an emphasis on religion and music. Dissatisfied with the schools in the area, True’s parents think it is “a bit careless to allow my daughter to fly on an airline where pilots are not required to pass a test.”

The parents of Grisha do not believe in systems, and are convinced that the school system significantly diminishes their imagination and creativity during the most impressionable years of their childhood. Grisha is fascinated by animals and nature and is currently working on a book that he intends to have published.

Morgan’s mother, a certified teacher, follows a consistent schedule of education inspired by an approach that emphasizes imagination in learning, and encourages the integration of practical, artistic, and conceptual elements in daily activities. Morgan’s weekly educational routines include literature, art, role-playing, knitting, baking, and soccer.


Rachel Papo, 2015


Born in Ohio and raised in Israel, Rachel Papo began working as a photojournalist in the late 1990s and received her MFA in Photography from the School of Visual Arts in 2005. Her works have been exhibited worldwide, including at ClampArt Gallery (New York, NY); Griffin Museum of Photography (Winchester, MA); Paul Kopeikin Gallery, (Los Angeles, CA); and Photographic Center Northwest (Seattle, WA). Since 2005 Papo’s photographs have been published in over 15 countries.

She has received numerous awards including a New York Foundation for the Arts Fellowship and was a finalist for the Santa Fe Prize for Photography in 2006. Rachel was selected in 2009 and 2012 as a Critical Mass Top 50 winner. In 2009 she received the “Deeper Perspective Photographer of the Year” award from the Lucie Foundation, and was featured in the “Discoveries of the Meeting Place” exhibition as part of the 2010 Fotofest Biennial. A 
monograph of her series Serial No. 3817131, documenting female soldiers in Israel, was published by powerHouse Books in 2008. In 2011 photographs from that body of work were selected to be included in the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston’s acclaimed traveling exhibition WAR/PHOTOGRAPHY: Images of Armed Conflict and Its Aftermath.

Papo’s works are included in several public and private collections, including those of the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, and the Museum of Contemporary Photography, Chicago. She currently lives with her husband and two children in Berlin, Germany.