In Focus: Kim Thomas

Yes, Kim is an Awesome Okanagan contributor, and as was the case with the article about the Kuhls, I’m queasy about featuring photographers who do commercial work because it looks like favouritism or advertorial. But my introduction to Kim’s photos came years ago on Flickr, and her unique photographic style and verve made it an easy decision to put her stuff In Focus this month.

Anyone with attractive friends and a thousand bucks for a decent camera can take some good pictures immediately, and over a few months, they might get a few great shots. Looking through Kim’s pictures, I see a progression in skill and engagement that can only be developed through years of sustained effort and passion — compelling portraits that stand alone, admired even when you don’t know the subjects. It’s art, with a measure of playfulness that makes it fun and accessible. She was kind enough to answer a few questions about her pursuit of great images.

How did you start doing photography in the Okanagan?

It was the summer of 2008. I bought the Canon XSi and began photographing like mad. I photographed everything I possibly could, and began one of those 365 projects where you take at least one picture a day for an entire year. I was hooked after that. This is one of the first photographs I ever took.

Influences or artists/photographers you admire?

I admire people and I admire life. The conversations and interactions I have with people inspire me, and really, this is the root of my photography. I could write a novel about the many photographers I love. To name a famous photographer, it’s for sure Annie Leibovitz. Some of my inspiring photographer friends are Ashley Batz and Kaare Iverson.

You’ve captured some wonderful faces. Any tips for aspiring portrait photographers?

I focus on three things: the emotion, the story and the light. The emotion and the story probably play off one another, but they are very distinct on their own, so don’t assume both elements are in a photograph. The emotion is the feeling and the story is what sets that feeling. Light is key, too, and is one of my favorite aspects of photography. I’m a firm believer in using natural light. Back light your subject whenever possible.

The wedding/family/portrait business keeps getting more crowded. Any thoughts on the difficulties and opportunities in the business of photography in the valley?

It’s true, the Okanagan is very saturated with photographers. It becomes overwhelming if you focus on competing and how to get the next gig. I put my focus on my personal work. I photograph what I want to photograph and nothing else. I knew that becoming a wedding photographer would be a good way to receive more exposure and make a good pay check, but I’ve never really wanted to photograph weddings.

The more you shoot your natural style, the better it will get. People who like your style will eventually find your work and you’ll begin to build a name for yourself. It’s a slower start, but so far has been entirely worth it.

What is inspiring you right now? Any short-term or long-term goals for your photography?

Knowing that this world is so big and I’ve seen so little of it inspires me. I know there is so much more life out there to shoot, and I must find a way to photograph it all. A short term goal I have is to buy a new camera. Mine was stolen last year and I’ve since been using film and borrowing my boyfriend’s camera. A long term goal is to travel and photograph the world.

You’ve taken some great portraits of guys — in your experience, what are the differences and similarities between photographing men and women? 

In some ways, there are no differences between photographing men and women, but in other ways, they are entirely different. I find guys are most comfortable getting their picture taken when they are with friends goofing around (the candid moments). All of the men I’ve photographed have been great, but for the most part the seem more nervous when they’re with their partner (ie: engagement shoots). That being said, a lot of times the woman is nervous, too. When shooting anyones portrait, you have to learn as a photographer that it’s your job to make your subject comfortable and in their most natural essence. I spend a lot of time getting to know my client. The relationship we build before hand makes the photo shoot more relaxed and natural. My next personal challenge is to start photographing men in a more fashion-esque way. I feel like I get women’s fashion a lot (and therefore female portraiture), but to be honest, I’m still learning a ton about how to photograph a man in his most natural element. A lot of the women I’ve photographed are my friends, so in many ways, they’re easy to photograph.

More of Kim’s stuff online:

Tons of cool stuff behind those links — don’t be shy about checking them out. Sometimes people share amazing stuff online and then only hear crickets chirping. If you see something you really like, let the photographer know with comments, Likes, Faves, re-posts and e-mails.
In Focus features interesting Okanagan photographers and their work each month(ish). Individual photos are also featured each week on Focus Friday. The author primarily picks stuff from the I Love the Okanagan group on Flickr — if you have suggestions or ideas for photography features, please pass them along to jhiebert@gmail.com.

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