PaperCity Magazine

September 2019- Fort Worth

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more than a glamorous party and casually refers to her mental-health struggles as "bad days" and having "scratchy brain," as though they were Holly's mean reds — something to be dealt with by a trip to Tiffany's. But for Rambo, her Tiffany is photography. "I got started because I had … we'll call it a no-good rotten-bad day, which is the closest I would like to get to it," she says. "I got to where I didn't know what to say to humans anymore. So I started taking pictures." Rambo takes the topic of mental illness seriously and has found purpose in using her art to further the conversation and incite change. Last year, she partnered with local real estate firm M2G Ventures to write and direct a short film to raise awareness of the RAMBO REVEALED BY LISA COLLINS SHADDOCK. SELF PORTRAITS RAMBO ELLIOTT. THE SLOW LIFE OF A SCRATCHY-MINDED PHOTOGRAPHER: WINTER FORMALS, DANCING WITH LEON BRIDGES, AND PARALLELS WITH HOLLY GOLIGHTLY R ambo Elliot waits for me for me on the front porch of her 1950s home in University West — her choppy, bleached-blonde bob jutting out from behind a book: Charles Dickens' David Copperfield. Herb and vegetable gardens surround the house, masquerading as landscaping. "Lately my husband has been heating olives with rosemary from the garden and salt," she says. "We sit on the porch and spit the pits out. We live really slowly. Being a scratchy-minded person, when I can live slow, I think it's wise. Just to sit on the porch and try to read Charles Dickens and pet my dog and eat olives." Rambo herself appears as a character from a novel — her unfiltered, narrative- like manner of speech reveals pieces of her story like breadcrumbs. Her dog Layla, an emotional support animal, has a similarly bedhead-ish coat of white fur and follows closely at our heels as Rambo (as she is commonly known) gives me a tour of her home. Every inch is decorated with found treasures in artistic vignettes, pulled together with the same eye with which she's built a career as a photographer and art director. Her work has been featured in GQ and Rolling Stone, among others. A row of antique telephones catches my eye. Reams of gold streamers drape them, like festive wrapping paper. "These were from one of my winter formals," Rambo explains. "It was just too sad to take them down." The winter formal is an annual party she throws around the holidays, with over-the-top dress required. For friends who say they have nothing to wear, Rambo is happy to help. "I find all these things at estate sales and ask, 'Do you want to look like Judy Garland dressed up? Or, do you want to look like Beyoncé?'" she says. "It's fun to be in costumes and remember to be alive a little bit." As we comb through the racks of secondhand taffeta, lace, and sequined dresses in her closet, Rambo recalls playing dress-up at an early age with her sisters in their rural hometown in Arkansas — a place where getting out, she says, requires joining either the military or a gang. She, however, moved to Fort Worth, where she spent her middle and high school years before attending The University of Oklahoma. Today, Rambo's love of dress-up plays into her career, styling her own editorial fashion shoots, as well as work for high- profile clients such as Stetson. Rambo's rapid rise to success in the photography industry was jump-started in part by a friendship with Grammy Award–winning singer/songwriter Leon Bridges, a Fort Worth native whom she met around the same time she began dabbling in photography. "We both were super-isolated religious kids. We met and immediately clicked," says Rambo, who toured with Bridges as his personal photographer in 2015 and for most of 2016. "We both love fashion; we both love dancing. So we would go through vintage stores all day, find outfits, take pictures, and dance all night. That's our friendship." A fter an afternoon chatting with Rambo, I found myself thinking of Holly Golightly. Like Truman Capote's literary heroine, Rambo escaped an oppressive small town and gave herself a new name. She adores nothing country's mental-health crisis. The film, titled The Bridge, was previewed at SXSW and screenings are in the works as part of a fundraising initiative later this year. "Do you want to watch it?" Rambo asks. "A lot of people cry, just so you know. I always do." With this preface, we sit in silence in front of her desktop computer as she presses play. The film is a visual immersion into Rambo's complex and tormenting experiences with anxiety and depression, depicted in an abstract and conceptual way. Neither of us can hold back tears during a scene in which a woman, buried deep in dirt, musters the strength to dig herself out. Like Rambo herself, the scene is at once heart-wrenching, brave, and profoundly beautiful. Rambo Elliott Rambo Elliott 94

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