Artist Profile – Zoe Kimpton

When I first came across Zoe Kimpton’s work on Instagram I was blown away by the quirky and whimsical imagery of her ‘They and Theirs’ photography series.

A selection of character portraits featuring a surreal mix of people and objects, perfectly styled together in a dreamy palette of pastel hues.

The portraits are not so much about the people who feature in them, but instead inspired by Zoe’s imagination and the fictional character’s that she creates for her subjects to represent.

Zoe’s love of clothing and styling drives her images, which can find her scouting markets, op shops and the like, to find just the perfect prop that will make her characters come to life.

The result is curated and carefully organised images that are thought provoking and emotive, but always with a subtle sense of humour and a hefty dose of fantasy.

Head down below to read my interview with Zoe as we discuss her artistic process, the people who inspire her and what her ultimate dream project would be.

Tell us a little bit about yourself, your background and what led you into photography?

My name is Zoe and I’m an emerging designer/ photographer based in Melbourne.

After high school I tossed my paint stained uniform, (evidence of practically living in the art room) and completed the Bachelor of Design, Visual Communication at Monash University. My eccentric illustration tutor, Ned encouraged me to shoot my own pictures for design projects and experiment with the camera. My approach was haphazard yet fearless – I wanted to take pictures of everything.

Falling in love with photography came as a surprise due to the fact it’s such a technical medium. I’d always liked to paint and draw but something about the camera clicked – no pun intended! Upon graduating I went on to study the Diploma of Photo Imaging at RMIT.

How would you describe your work?

I would describe my work as delicate, whimsical, often with subtle humour or bizarre elements. My love of styling and obsession with clothes is what drives me to create colourful and quirky images. I am a believer in ‘less is more’. Hence, my minimal, pared back aesthetic.

I am interested in the imagined as opposed to capturing reality. The portraits I take are rarely much to do with the person sitting in front of the camera. Instead I have them posed and dressed in clothes I have chosen to produce more of a fictional idea of them. However, it is their distinctiveness and energy during the shoot that makes the picture come alive.

Can you give us some insight into your process?

Once I come up with an idea I visualise the image in my head with every detail nutted out. I try to capture it in a rough sketch and then I collect what I need to build the picture. Sometimes I make my own props because what I specifically need is hard to find.

I prefer to shoot indoors or in the studio because it allows me have more control. Planning my photographs before I take them gives me confidence and the ability to work in a decisive manner. I find this particularly helpful when it comes to photographing a person who may not be used to posing in front of the camera. I don’t typically shoot professional models so I practise my skills in directing people.

What inspires your photography?

People are what inspire my photography the most – their faces, sense of humour and unique mannerisms. I feel most excited when I meet someone I’d really like to photograph. The tricky part is mustering the courage to ask!

What are 3 of your favourite resources, which you look to for inspiration?

I live for op shops and markets when it comes to finding inspiration. I adore sifting through objects to find treasures amidst the junk. As a result I have an ever-growing collection of wallpapers, vintage dresses, costume jewellery and quirky ornaments.

I also look at paintings to inspire me, more so than the work of other photographers. I think it helps to find inspiration outside of the medium I work in.

The television show, Mad Men is another wonderful source of inspiration for me. I have re-watched episodes over and over again. The time period fascinates me as well as the story which is heavily character driven. For me the show is the best example of flawless costume and set design.

Tell us about some of the people who inspire you and why?

Canadian painter, Kris Knight -His portraits are gentle and hauntingly beautiful. I adore his soft colour palette.

Film director, Sofia Coppola – She has such a unique style. I am in love with her dream-like aesthetic.

Strangers inspire me all the time. Sometimes its an unusual face or they way they are dressed that sparks an idea. When I meet someone for the first time, I often imagine what my portrait of he or she would look like.

I am very lucky to have a big bunch of fun, creative friends. They all inspire me and have willingly posed for my photography on many occasions.

If you could shoot a portrait of anyone in the world, who would it be?

I would love to shoot a dramatic portrait of Lana Del Rey. It would be cool to play with the notion of the constructed identity that she embodies. I would make a very elaborate costume too.

What would your dream project be?

My dream project would be working with a team on an editorial fashion shoot. Fashion photography appeals to be because there are no rules, it’s a fantasy. My shoot would involve eccentric outfits and building a large set from scratch.

What is favourite place in Melbourne?

My favourite place in Melbourne is Brunswick Street for the second hand shops and people watching. I also enjoy visiting the Royal Botanic Gardens. It is fun to spot the turtles.

 You can find more of Zoe Kimpton’s work on her website, and follow her on Instagram to see more of her stunning photography.