The first person to be in my 2015 spotlight is Kim Leuenberger. Probably not really known by most of you, but you should know her! One of the things I love in life is passionate people. People who found their gift and are somehow sharing it with the world. Kim fits that description. She is a young but super talented photographer. I think her work is inspiring and unique, it is something we don’t get to see often on the internet. One of Kim’s projects is ‘Traveling Cars Adventures’. It’s an amazing concept and I really love that series of pictures. Every picture has a story to tell.
It’s time to get to know Kim’s story…
Kim, what should we know about you? What inspires you?
‘Well I’m 22 years old and come from Switzerland, moved to London about 1 year and a half ago to study photography at University of the Arts London. At the moment, I’m obsessed with music. It’s my biggest source of inspiration, but also daydreaming and looking out of the window in the train, that’s when ideas start coming.’
One thing we definitely have in common is that we both love to travel. How important is traveling to you and why? What is a perfect holiday for you?
‘Traveling is my life. I haven’t stopped throughout my life, going from one place to the other. I love missing places and going back to them, I love that feeling between two visits where you can reflect on yourself. I have family all over, and call different places my home, I try to discover new ones also. A perfect holiday is based on photography, turning all around it, having a car and driving there and there to take the perfect memories. And good music in the car. And the sea, or water, but some nature outside the human world.’
I love missing places and going back to them
What made you decide to move from Switzerland to London? It must have been a life changing decision?
‘I guess I always knew I wouldn’t spend all my life in Switzerland. It’s so small, so restrictive. London is full of opportunities. You can actually make it as a photographer here! I’m only studying now but I’m getting a lot of small jobs that help me pay for my studies and I’m getting known. Also I love this city, I find it mesmerizing. How the cultures just mix and mingle perfectly, everyone being open, it’s easy to make connections.’
How easy was the switch for you from being in a lab and studying Pharmacology to the life you are living now, studying Photography? Pharmacology and Photography are really different. How did you realize that pharmacology wasn’t really what you wanted to do?
‘I think it was when I realized I couldn’t pour one more drop of this liquid into that solution because it could kill someone. When I saw that I had to follow a very strict process and that there was no room at all for creativity and error I knew it wasn’t for me. I wanted to help save lives, but I couldn’t imagine having such a responsibility on my shoulders.’
I’m fascinated by ‘The Traveling Cars Adventures’. How did this project start?
‘I took a picture around 3 years and a half ago now of a blue van with a mini paddington bear for an Instagram project about kids with autism, the picture got good feedback so I went on with photographing that little van everywhere.’
What is the story behind the cars?
‘They are cars I find wherever I travel, or where my family travels. They are my holidays souvenirs, and I like them to have little adventures.’
Where do you get the cars? How do you select your miniature cars?
‘That’s the thing, I find them everywhere and when I see them, it’s like if I saw a pretty dress or bag, I can’t help spending and buying it (so I buy less dresses and bags.). There is something very important about the face of the car. It needs to be friendly, to look like it’s looking at you, but that’s difficult to explain.’
Are there stories behind the pictures you take?
‘There is always a story, but I think it’s up to interpretation for anyone who sees it. I’m not going to lie, this isn’t the deepest photo project, but my aim is to make people smile and have fun. And especially me having fun taking those pictures.’
When do you know a picture is perfect?
‘I never really think it’s perfect. I’ve gotten very perfectionist with the time. It depends of the composition of course. Sometimes I’m just playing with water and want some bokeh and not much detail about the location, but sometimes where the photo was taken seems more important to me. It all depends.’
What was your very first picture in the traveling cars adventures?
‘The one with the paddington bear and the blue van. But I don’t think I can count this as an adventure, so maybe the blue van on the beach in Spain. With my dog Charlie.’
How does the feedback on your work make you feel?
‘When someone tells me that my pictures always make them smile and feel warm inside, it’s the best feeling. When I had that crazy moment earlier this year when everyone was reblogging about the series, I tried to read all the comments and of course some were from people saying it was pointless because of all the blur. I took the feedback really harshly at first but then agreed with it and tried to show more of the background when it was actually relevant. After all, they are traveling cars, so we should be able to recognize where they are. I feel like I have two paces with the series. The adventurous cars, and the traveling ones!
I love the attention on the series, it’s always great, but I’m scared to be catalogued as a toy photographer. I do other things too, that’s not all what defines my photography.
How important is photography in your life? What else do you love photographing?
‘Photography is everything at the moment. I work at Jessops, a store that sells cameras and accessories, I study photography, I breath, eat, dream photography.
I love telling stories, being creative, with portraits and with landscapes too. I used to do a lot of self portraits because it was the best way for me to express myself, but it’s hard to find the time to do that at the moment. I wish I had the energy to go back to my roots and do more storytelling shoots.’
What would you say to people who are thinking of making a life changing decision?
‘It’s not easy. I worked hard for it, and I prepared myself a background, a plan B if it didn’t work out. But I’d definitely do it the same way if I was given the chance. I think everything happens for a reason, you learn from everything you do and if a chance appears, then grab it now, because the moment might be gone forever. I don’t let myself regret doing something I wanted to do, and I don’t want to regret not having done something.
There will be times along the way where you’ll be doubting (at least I do) and asking yourself where you going and who you are (okay, maybe that’s only me) but I think you need to always remember what your dream is and that you don’t want a life filled with regrets. It’s never too late to chase your dreams.’
Your favorite quote
‘Keep your head up, keep your heart strong’ – Ben Howard (not sure lyrics count as quote haha)’
We are all explorers of this beautiful world. Thank you Kim for this interview and good luck with everything!