We are fortunate enough to connect with beautiful like minded souls through our social media, including Kimbra, who we connected with in a moment of organic mutual appreciation. Kimbra’s work speaks to the soft, inward gaze, that we love to share through SUKU, and we couldn’t wait to ask her some questions about her life, and her work. She grew up in Seattle, and lived in New York for 8 years before embracing Paris as her home. When she describes her childhood, she reminisces on the fact that she was always amongst nature, “I grew up on the beach, even though it’s a rocky, colder climate beach, the pacific northwest is absolutely beautiful. I was so fortunate to see the water everyday”. Modelling forces you to be the result of someone else’s eyes, tastes and desires, and Kimbra’s embracing of portraiture is a radical move to reclaim herself, in her eyes and with her desires. We love her sustainable approach to life through her ethical consumption and the choices she makes in her creative work and you can really feel that her beautiful self-portraiture is the result of a sustainable, reflective life.
Early mornings or late nights?
Early mornings, I love the peace and quiet of the morning. I also love to go to bed early so I’m not a big fan of late nights.
What drew you to move to Paris?
It’s my favorite city in the world. I was living in NYC before, and once I quit modeling it really didn’t feel like the right place for me. I was depressed, exhausted and needed a change of pace. Paris is very relaxed compared to NYC and I really prefer it culturally.
What smell reminds you most of home?
My stuffed animal lion, Simba. I have had him for 24 years, he goes wherever I go. His scent is home.
How did working in the medium of self-portraiture allow you to explore your mental health, and your journey of self-exposure?
Before I began self-portraiture I worked as a model for nearly a decade. It was really frustrating and detrimental to my mental health to work in that industry at the time I did. I developed an extremely unhealthy relationship with my body from modeling. I started taking self-portraits while I was modeling simply as a way to document myself the way I actually saw myself. I wanted to create authentic images that weren’t retouched and actually felt like me. Self-portraiture is extremely cathartic and allowed me to reconnect with my sense of self. It has also taught me to love my body the way it is naturally and break down patriarchal values that had been instilled in me by society all my life.
Our upcoming collection is about the journey inwards to find home, what song describes this journey for you personally?
“Home is Where You’re Happy” by Charles Manson. The opening lyrics are “Your home is where you’re happy, it’s not where you’re not free. Your home is where you can be what you are, because you were just born be.” And the song ends with “As long as you’ve got love in your heart, you’ll never be alone.” It was written in the 60’s and I think it’s just as important now as it was then. For me, home is not an external place but an internal state of being.
You describe yourself as a sustainable photographer, what does sustainability in your creative practice mean?
For me sustainability is not just part of my work but something I embody fully in my life. I try to live as sustainably as possible, by begin vegan, recycling, not using single use plastic, offsetting my carbon footprint, the list goes on, I could talk about this all day. In terms of my work, I develop all my film at home and reuse my chemicals as much as I can and don’t waste any materials. I also only purchase used camera and buy a lot of expired film that would otherwise be wasted. I only work with sustainable brands that I believe in and I also always do research on all the companies that I collaborate with. I recently learned about “greenwashing”, which is when companies falsely lead consumers to believe that a brand’s products or policies are ethical or environmentally friendly. I think a big problem were currently facing is that brands can claim to be “sustainable” but aren’t actually defining what those sustainable practice are. So for my work, I always investigate who I work with to make sure their practices are actually safe for the environment, ethical, and honest.
You shoot and develop your own film for your photography, so what do you love most about working with film?
What I love most is that it’s tangible. It’s a physical thing I touch, I create and I process. Digital photography doesn’t have the same richness and will always feel artificial to me, but I have no judgement to anyone who shoots digital, it’s just not right for me and my work. Part of the reason I starting taking self-portraits was to create something raw, honest and authentic. So shooting on film and not retouching my photographs was really the only way for me to achieve that.
Can you tell us a little bit about the creative process of developing these beautiful images in Joshua Tree for us?
I was spending time with my mother before returning to Paris, and she lives in California about 45 minutes from Joshua Tree. I knew I wanted to shoot the pieces outside and all the flowers were starting to bloom so it really felt like the perfect place. I spent the entire day there alone driving around (in a hybrid car) and just stopped in different landscapes that I felt drawn to. I also want to add that no flowers were harmed in the making of this shoot. There have been a lot of people damaging the ecosystems in that area at the moment and I always respect the places that I shoot.
You also create film works as part of your creative practice, how did you transition into adding this to you works, and do you have to give up part of the process of development to someone else? How does this feel?
When I first started my self-portraits, there were moments, movements, I wanted to capture that I simply couldn’t with just photography, so I got a super-8 camera and just started to explore moving film. It felt like a really natural progression of my work, and I love the quality and texture that super-8 has, it’s something so special and unique. I would love to develop my own super-8 someday but don’t have the space in my apartment for the equipment, but I use a lab outside of Paris, that is absolutely amazing. It is honestly refreshing to have someone else develop that for me because it’s really time consuming. The lab I use has been developing my films for the past 3 years, I know them very well, I’ll even text them about my films and trust them wholeheartedly to process my super-8.
If you could wake up anywhere tomorrow, where would you be?
That’s a hard question because my mood changes so much and there are so many different places I love. I’d always be happy to wake up on a warm beach or somewhere in nature, but honestly it doesn’t matter where I wake up as long as I’ve got Simba, my lion.