Kimbra Audrey is an American artist, currently living in Paris. After working as model from her teen years for nearly a decade she grew disillusioned working in an industry that wasn’t aligned with her values. To combat the narrow-minded and often toxic beauty standards that most modelling is rooted in, she began to take self-portraits as a therapeutic way to create images of how she saw herself, in an empowering move to take back ownership of her body. Kimbra shoots exclusively on film and develops and prints all her own work in her home darkroom. Her practice took on an even deeper personal direction when during the summer of 2022 she was diagnosed with breast cancer. Since then, the primary focus of her work has been documenting and sharing what it means to be a young woman healing.

“I have always been drawn to photography, but really fell in love with the medium when I studied black and white 35mm film photography in high school. I loved being in the darkroom and the entire process. I started taking self-portraits while working as a model at a time when I was severely depressed and it was simply an outlet for me. I was deeply frustrated with how superficial and retouched fashion images were and I wanted to create images that felt authentic and honest, which is one of the reasons why I don’t retouch my work. For me, the entire process of self-portraiture is cathartic.”

“I like that film is a tangible object you can touch, smell and feel. I enjoy developing my film and printing, watching an image come to life, it still feels like magic. I love chemistry and being forced to be patient especially now, living in such a fast paced society. Film is slow, I like to take my time and everything I use is manual so I have to be fully present. When I am setting up a self-portrait there are a lot of steps involved, besides being the subject, like loading the film, lighting, focusing, framing, and I like the technicality and mechanics of the craft. There is also something really special and honest about the quality of film that can’t be replicated with digital.”

“When I first started my self-portraits I didn’t own a tripod and would balance my camera on a chair or stack of books. In a lot of my early rolls I struggled with basics like focusing. I was really inexperienced at first and it took years of learning, practice, and experimentation for me to find my voice artistically. I was really insecure when I was starting out and struggled a lot with my body image, confidence and self-worth. Slowly, my self-portraiture helped me heal my relationship with my body and learn how to love and accept myself, rather than constantly feeling like I wasn’t good enough or needed to conform to unrealistic ideas of beauty. My work has helped me unlearn patriarchal values that had been engrained in me my entire life.”

“The history of the female body has been used by the patriarchy to control, oppress and shame women. Moving towards a more matriarchal society that is fair and has more gender equality is essential to reclamation. For example, there is a deep history of the objectification and sexualization of the nude female body, but I personally don’t see nudity as inherently sexual and rewriting that narrative is big part of my work. Hopefully as a society we continue to progress and break down out-dated patriarchal values.”

“Self-love and body acceptance are not learned overnight. Body confidence is a practice and something I am still learning and struggle with. It’s okay to have bad days and not strive for perfection but to be realistic and honest with yourself about how you feel and what you can do or change to help yourself feel better even if it’s something small. Most things that make me feel confident in my body are rarely connected to appearance but more my well-being, like eating healthy, nourishing my body by staying hydrated, getting enough sleep, and staying active. Who I surround myself is also a key to my confidence, I put my energy into relationships with people whose values are in alignment with my own, and focus on meaningful connections that aren’t competitive but mutual and supportive. Lastly, having creative outlet, whether it’s photography, writing, music, or dance, really any art is critical to my mental health, which is linked to confidence as well.”

“It was very humbling to be diagnosed with breast cancer at such a young age, but especially for me as my body has been a part of my career, through modelling and my self-portraits, for more than half of my life. One of the most challenging aspects of having cancer was adjusting to my body after treatment. Documenting my journey and the changes in my body really helped me grieve the loss of my breast but also learn to love and accept the new parts of my body. Cancer affects so many people, directly and indirectly, and yet I still feel like it is rarely authentically shown and still sort of taboo and secretive. Representation is an essential part of raising awareness and promoting early detection but it’s also crucial to show other people who may be suffering that they aren’t alone.”

“Analogue photography is inherently slow, and requires patience, just like caring for snails. My snails are unbelievably inspirational to me. I have 13 (pet snails) at the moment and watching them, eat, grow, climb, really anything they do is mesmerizing. All of my snails were found or rescued and over the past few years I’ve become quite the expert. Snails are fascinating and intelligent creatures, with different personalities, food preferences, and can even lay eggs. They help me focus and force me to be present, some of my snails are so small they are hard to see and their shells can be fragile, I have to be careful and give them my full attention when caring for them. I love almost all animals, it’s one of the many reasons I became and stayed vegan. I grew up horseback riding and have always felt a special connection to horses; they are such strong and majestic creatures.”

“Nature has always been an important part of my work, and I’m passionate about environmental protection and preservation. I love being in nature and think it’s essential for mental health and gives me perspective. I also just find it soothing and meditative to be in vast open spaces. I grew up in Seattle, in the pacific northwest of the United States and it was a truly beautiful place to grow up, surrounded by majestic nature; I spent my summers camping and as much time as I could outdoors. Paris has so much beauty and history everywhere, it’s a place where I have always felt artistically inspired. After being sick for a prolonged period, all I hope for good health, happiness and peace.”