We Are The Rhoads Get Intimate with Salem Mitchell for Fall Cover Story
“Salem Mitchell has been doing some really cool things,” says Sarah Rhoads of We Are The Rhoads (the other Rhoads are her photography and life partner Chris Rhoads, and their new son River). And Sarah is right, Salem Mitchell has been doing some really cool things. At only 19 years old she went right from posting selfies on Instagram to signing with Ford Models, and now pops up all over newsstands including the latest cover of Darling Magazine - shot by the Rhoads. Darling Magazine is unique in that they do no retouching of their models, and Salem’s freckled face is the perfect canvas to be left untouched. “She’s absolutely stunning, she’s absolutely radiant,” says Sarah. “All of her imperfection: that’s what I love most about it. Up close in somebody’s face you’re seeing them for exactly who they are and there’s nothing about it that needs to be retouched. For me that’s what I found really engaging.”
At 19, Salem is still new to the modeling world. There’s a lot to navigate, not only the culture and the politics, but also how to be comfortable in front of cameras day in and day out, and always performing. But for Chris and Sarah Rhoads that counts as an asset instead of a challenge. “She was really great and she didn’t come with many preconceived notions about how to move or how to do things so for us,” Sarah explains. “As the day unfolded she became much more willing to just let her guard down and just be herself.” Over time, the Rhoads and Mitchell created their own little community of three that opened and closed, like a tide, to create a the dynamic images in the cover story.
The two blockbuster images from the shoot are the two images that magazine debated over for the cover: the more graphic photograph of Mitchell in old movie theater seats, and one of Mitchell’s face way up close, a view only witnessed through intimacy. These two images speak to two very different energies that Sarah and Chris saw throughout the day. “The shoot was characterized by these little pockets, vacillating between being vulnerable and letting barriers down, and some moments that were probably more constructed,” Sarah explains. These two spaces show a whole range of who Mitchell is and what it means to interact with her. By exploring in this way the Rhoads revealed a range of Mitchell, not just an idea or caricature of her. There’s a generosity there, both from Mitchell to let in the Rhoads and of the Rhoads to show us what they saw. It is the photographer’s duty to step in and act as a proxy for the audience and reveal to us what they find, but it’s rare the revelation is so complete.