An Aspiring Photographer “Toasts” a New Life

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As she prepares lunch, a photographer explains her reborn passion to master the craft

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(Photo by Shemar Woods / The Brooklyn Ink)

From the produce section in a grocery store on Tuesday afternoon, Rachel Verducci walked back to her Crown Heights apartment—right around the corner from the Compare Foods on St. Marks. It is a typically small New York studio, packed with life’s necessities: One bed. One closet. One wooden table. A couple of chairs. A counter. A patterned rug serves as the apartment’s centerpiece. The bed is made, decorative pillows on top, and books are stacked neatly next to a pile of mail on the table, near a laptop and camera.

Verducci tossed her keys on the bed, unpacked her grocery bag, and, as she prepared lunch, began to detail her recent trip with her best friend to the Amalfi Coast in Italy.

“I make at least one trip overseas every year,” she said. “But this trip, there was something about it that kinda changed my perspective. I did a lot of reading along the coast. I love to read on vacation. And I just took time to take in the beauty of the world. There’s something about leaving the States that helps you put life in perspective, you know?”

Originally from Houston, Verducci’s southern drawl emerged during conversation, complementing her eccentric wardrobe, which includes a plain headwrap, oversized jeans, and a gold blouse to match her jewelry. Verducci, who’s taller than the average woman but still requires tippy toes to reach the cabinets, said by the time she returned home from her eight-hour trip, her mind was fixed on making a permanent lifestyle change. “I can’t explain it other than just knowing inside it was time to do what I had put off for so long,” she said.

Verducci brought out an avocado and a loaf of wheat bread, along with some lime, pomegranate seeds, olive oil, sumac, and salt. But she was missing one thing: the recipe. She opened the MacBook, typed a couple words and, “Ah, yes.” She found it.

And on the trip, she said, she found something else. She had always been interested in photography, “but I never took it seriously. I mean, I took photos of friends or at events and my passion was always photography,” said Verducci, who works at a start-up tech company. “But photography doesn’t pay the bills—or so I thought.” As she was taking photos overseas on this trip, however,  “I fell in love with some of the pictures and beautiful scenery, and it just clicked: This is what I need to be doing.”

Verducci said she was determined to bring her new mindset back to the U.S., where she has changed her eating habits, started working out, and picked up books on the craft of photography and self-discovery.

“I’m in the process of making a lifestyle change and there was no better time to start than when I got back,” Verducci said, scooping the avocado from its shell into a bowl and seasoning it with lime, salt, and olive oil. “I just wanted to go for it.”

Her pursuit has been successful so far. Over the past month, Verducci has landed freelance opportunities— shooting for a birthday party and beauty festival, and she started her own website in hopes of landing more freelance jobs. In addition, she has attended photography workshops in Manhattan in an effort to sharpen her editing and shooting skills.

“Looking back, I wish I would have taken a more serious approach sooner,” Verducci said. “But they say, it’s never too late.”

She is 28 years old, and Verducci hopes she’s just in time to build a full-time career in photography. On the chance it doesn’t work out, becoming a chef wouldn’t be a bad second choice. By the end of the interview, she had produced a picture-perfect lunch. Pomegranate splattered across the slice of bread over a smooth spread of avocado. Sumac and seeds were sprinkled in every unoccupied area to the crust on all sides.

Call it avocado toast with a twist.

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