This week we caught up with APA finalist Kimberley Wallis. Read more to find out about Kimberley’s photographic life from her time in the darkroom to her mobile phone practice.
Can you tell us a bit about yourself and what made you pursue photography?
My name is Kimberley Wallis and I am a photographic artist located in Melbourne, Australia. I grew up in Queensland and was lucky enough to have a father that was interested in photography and taught me how to use a darkroom and camera when I was a teenager. As soon as I entered a darkroom I was completely in love. I went on to study photography under Doug Spowart at SQUIT before moving to Melbourne.
About 7 years ago, I started creating images again after a very long hiatus (which is a very long but boring story so we will skip that bit). Photography for me is really more than taking pictures, it is my creative outlet, it is my artistic expression, my social commentary, my voice to say the things I can’t, my opportunity to show people the way I see things.
The accessibility and ingenuity of mobile phone photography enables us to be inventive and explore the limits of the mobile device. Do you feel this is true with your APA images?
I really do enjoy pushing the limits of a mobile device and love to see how other photographers are doing so. The images I entered APA are taken in tough conditions, I am trying to capture reflections off fast moving trains, which is not something really a mobile phone camera is made to do. The technical constraints of the hardware and software however give you an expressive freedom with your creations. It allows a focus on the imperfections and how you can use them to your advantage so that they become part of the story and style. Much the same way film grain can be pushed, the pixels can also be – their saturation levels, their detail, their noise. Digital SLR’s are wonderful (I absolutely love mine) but sometimes they are so good at perfecting all those things, you miss an opportunity to just focus on the creation component of the images rather than being technically accurate.
Your image, ‘Hidden in ROM’, is a beautiful composition that poetically frames mundane life in the window of a train. What compelled you to take the image and what were your technical decisions?
I have become completely obsessed with capturing commuters during peak hour. There is so much we miss at that time of day, people revert inwardly and don’t want to acknowledge the outside world. They hide in their phones, focus on their destination or wish they were back at their departure point. So we miss the scenes that unfold fleetingly. These scenes are all stories that show us what kind of society we have built. It reflects us.
For Hidden in ROM that day had spectacular light at one of the stations I regularly frequent. They are my favourite days because you know your chances of something wonderful being captured are on your side.
Technically, the timing is the hardest part, there are so many things that can go wrong as you have zero control. A train is moving, people are rushing, you just have to find the right angle, make your decisions quickly, stand still and hope your instinct and experience will guide you. I am always aiming to capture the reflection in the train window from trains that are going past, so getting the whole window in that split second can be tough.
‘Hidden in ROM’ depicts a silhouetted man and a woman bathed in light. Was this captured entirely “in camera” or do you enhance these results later?
The light was captured in camera but it was definitely enhanced. My mobile work always has post processing at some level, the technical constraints of the equipment I use and the situations that I am photographing in mean that they are never ideal. I play with the light by dodging and burning, and sometimes I need to remove small elements, distractions or myself! I don’t introduce new elements to my work but approach the images like paintings that are not quite finished and need layers applied to tell their story.
For this image, the gentleman was actually darker than the in camera shot and I brought out the highlights so that you can clearly see that he is standing there. The lady was bathed in golden light but I did up the saturation and contrast to give that strong opposition to the other side of the frame.
Personally as a photographer I don’t think it matters how much people process their photos as long as it works. It must add to the story and provide the appropriate feeling to the image rather than detract. After all we are just storytellers, we are presenting a subject to the world in a manner we want them to be viewed and that in itself is manipulation.
Street photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson believed in the “decisive moment” where a photographer “must know with intuition when to click the camera”. Before capturing your images, do you wait for the “decisive moment”? Can you give an example using one of your APA images?
Any situation really where you have zero control over the elements contained within your image, your instinct is what guides you. You first think about all the technical things – exposure, composition etc, etc but you don’t take the image until you think all the elements have come together. It is that “decisive moment” where you grab the expression, the movement, the fundamental heart of the story you are trying to capture. We have all had that moment when you know you have got the shot, when we have all waited and timed it nicely and before you even look at what you have captured – you just instinctively know you got it. It is one of the greatest feelings as a photographer.
My commuter images are all created this way and Hidden in ROM was definitely one of them. There were so many elements all converging at once. the train going past at speed, the lady moving to watch it and fighting the wind. The man walking down the platform to get to his preferred spot. I worked out the angle I wanted to shoot, then focused on when to get the complete window in shot. It was a moment that passed in a split second, and it was my decision, my instinct that drove when to click the camera.
The title of your image, ‘The Endless Search of Self’, suggests a narrative. Can you tell us more about it?
This is a self-portrait that I took one afternoon on the way home in winter. I was lucky that at the time, I had the platform to myself so could capture a clean shot.
We have created a society whereby we are so bombarded with expectations that we end up always searching for something more. It might be money, possessions, partners, the ideal life, but always something that seems just out of reach.
This self-portrait I adore because for me it captures my own search, it encapsulates my personal drive to find my own voice artistically. Every day I take photos, every day I am trying to refine my craft, my message, and at the same time work out who I am and what is the end game that I am searching for. We all maybe unique, but we are ultimately the same, even the person behind the camera.
What do you love most about mobile photography?
I love the most that it ensures that there is no excuse to not take photos. It is in our pocket, we carry them everywhere, they are unobtrusive and whether you think they are worthy equipment or not the accessibility cannot be denied.
I remember when taking a camera anywhere was a huge deal, they were heavy, they were expensive, then you had to get it processed and wait for days before you see the results. Now it is instant, it provides an opportunity to learn and grow rapidly, to produce work of greater quality every time and who doesn’t want that? Anything that we are driven to improve upon requires practice and mobiles are fantastic tools to assist you in that process.
To follow moew of Kimberley’s work head to –
Website – https://www.kimboid.com/
Instagram – @kimboid
Facebook – @thekimboid