Kimberly Seabury - I tend to dwell on that vision...until it becomes a burden that I need to release through my camera

Kimberly Seabury is a film photographer based in Salem, Oregon in the US. Her images feature the feminine, natural light, nature and a beautiful use of colour. We were fortunate in this interview to get to learn more about Kimberly, her film photography process, her driving forces, challenges and the ensuing feelings of rising above them.

You are described as a portrait, editorial and ‘everything in-between’ film photographer - how long have you been moving with film?

I’ve been shooting with film for around seven years, and exclusively with film for about three years.

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What moved you to shift to film exclusively?

Honestly, the move to film was pretty obvious after I really understood how to use my medium format camera. After seeing the quality film was capable of producing, there was no reason to use my digital camera anymore.  I felt an urge to rebuild my entire portfolio because it was not the caliber of work I could create with film. I wasn’t necessarily thinking I would never shoot digital again, I just knew whatever image I captured with my 645 camera would be far superior to what I could capture digitally.

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How do you move with film? Do you normally have a project, sequence or outcome in mind?

I find that the most interesting and beautiful images are captured while taking candidate shots of friends when we’re out playing around and having fun.

There is this feeling of purity and liberation, a release from being restricted by a pose.  It’s something that has its own life; it breathes.

There is always some specific vision and preparation involved in what I imagine I want the outcome of the photograph to be. I tend to dwell on that vision for a while until it becomes a burden that I need to release through my camera, creating a still moment that tells the story as I imagined it.  If I get all the materials, props, and location sorted out, everything else flows together on its own as long as it follows the storyline I envisioned.

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A number of your photographs appear to feature the feminine, natural light and nature. What draws you toward these themes?

It’s really just my own interpretation of what I find most beautiful and a reflection of my personality at the same time. I think of women as these strong mythical creatures with their own ability to uniquely express themselves. Each one kind of hiding some inner darkness that I try and bring out with my photography. Natural lighting is the only way I can properly shoot because I feel it’s the best light to work in to achieve all those beautiful colors that film can produce. What you see is exactly what you get. It has this glow that I would never be able to achieve with a digital camera. There is something to be said about knowing how to direct in certain lighting conditions. It’s truly it’s own art form, and if you can master lighting, you can really master photography.  Nature is usually my backdrop because what’s better than nature?  It’s very abstract and helps draw some of the attention away from the model. Location is a must, if you can take the time to scout an interesting landscape and familiarize yourself with the lighting in that area, you’ll have a great shoot.

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Can you tell us about the gear and film you use Kimberly?

I have two Mamiya 645 Pro Tl’s, a Canon 1v, and a Ricohflex. I generally use an 80mm lens and a bunch of close-up lens filters for my Mamiya camera. I use a variety of film types and speeds for different shoots. I prefer Kodak Portra 400 and 800 for most photo shoots. Occasionally I’ll shoot with Fuji 400h, Kodak 160 and Kodak Ektar.

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Now a little off topic, what sort of music do you listen to?

I don’t think it’s off topic at all. Music is of great importance to me. I really love listening to music on a photo shoot. I’ll pick certain music that fits with the theme, so the model kind of connects to what I’m trying to do artistically. My parents separated when I was 5 years old, so I got to be with them at different times of the year and got two different perspectives of where they were in life. The music they listened to helped me to better understand them at that time.

My father raised me on classic rock bands like Boston and The Eagles. While my mother introduced me to bands like Fleetwood Mac, Prince, Def Leppard, Journey, and many more. I grew up listening to those bands my parents exposed me to and branched out on my own from there.

I started really liking Radiohead, Pink Floyd, Ray LaMontagne, Sigur Ros, and Minus the Bear when I was in high school. Now I listen to stuff like Harry Nilsson, T. Rex, Little Dragon, M83, Grimes, Flume, Hundred Waters, and so many others. I never really stick to one main type of genre, but I love indie/experimental artists the best.

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Do you have any projects coming up or that you’re in the process of planning?

I do have one specific project coming up that I seem to keep putting on hold due to scheduling conflicts, costume-related issues, and funding. When it’s a project I want to do for my art, as opposed to an assignment, I have to fund the entire project myself. I also have to find people who want to help participate in my vision and that requires a great deal of flexibility with everyone’s schedules. It’s a very time sensitive and delicate process. If I rush a project because I just want to see a quick result, I realize afterwards that it would've been a lot better off if I had just put a little more time into it. I’m learning as I get older to be patient, and that is a very valuable life lesson.

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On that note, what other challenges do you feel you face as an artist?

To be completely honest, there are a lot of challenges I face, but it’s often the process of figuring out all those details that inspire and propel me to keep working. I’ll be a bit more specific, but please understand that these challenges do not change my point of view or passion for film photography.

I never really have problems creating visual concepts for photography. I get inspired everyday by movies, music videos, and dreams. The problem really lies in trying to capture all of the ideas I have before I forget them, while also building the budget, time, and materials to be able to make it all happen. In a digital age, I think most people don’t realize how expensive and time consuming film really is, especially medium format film. IT COSTS A LOT! And you need a few film cameras in your closet. There is also the cost of making costumes or buying dresses, props and other random materials, hiring models, and driving/flying to those dream locations you want as backdrops.

Film is also an expensive medium because it needs to be processed and scanned by a really good film lab, which is very pricy. Luckily for me, Photovision, my film lab, does an amazing job, and they’re located literally 5 minutes away from my house! I also work there, so I am able to scan and final color correct all my negatives. I also spend a lot of my time final editing all my images in Photoshop to make sure they’re perfect. Sitting and staring at a computer screen for hours and feeling like my wrists are about to fall off is another problem.

Working with people can also be challenging when they don’t understand how critical time and lighting are. The Sun is going down and there’s just a short time before twilight, the prettiest light to work with, but they’re tired and bored, so I have to leave at the most crucial moment. That is frustrating. Getting the shutter speed and aperture correct is also a challenge when you’re running around, chasing people, trying to get that perfect candid shot. From start to finish, it’s all such an extreme experience. When I’m finally done with a shoot, I can seriously sit in a dark room and stare at a wall for a few hours because of how emotionally draining it is for me to put so much energy into something like that.

It’s so worth it though. I love all of my memories from each shoot I do. From the beginning to the end, I’m getting to basically hand craft each of my photos.

It’s so much better than firing off 5,000 pictures and hoping one is good. I get 15 images per roll, each one of those cost money, so I must make them count. Scanning my images and seeing those pictures from that day is truly beautiful, especially when I find that crazy amazing shot that speaks to me. I can’t believe I conquered all of those challenges and still somehow was able to pull it off. That makes it all worth it to me.

Don’t be afraid of challenges, trust me, just do it!


Can you identify a photograph that has stayed with you, but is not your own? And why that one?

I have so many photographs that linger around in my head, but there’s this one image that I always refer back to from time to time. It’s a photograph from the amazingly talented Imogen Cunningham, called “The wind” from 1910. There’s something about it that speaks to me. It’s so magical, it gave me chills the first time I saw it.

Imogen Cunningham The Wind

What do you hope the world makes or takes from your images?

I hope the world understands that I am not stuck inside a mold, so anything I do can be seen with an open mind. I want them to take away whatever they want from looking at my photos, whether it be joy, sorrow, or a tiny bit of inspiration.

If I make them feel anything at all, I will know I completed my goal as an artist, which is to evoke some sort of emotion.

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For more on Kimberly Seabury and her work, please visit her website.