Who is Kimbra Audrey?
Kimbra Audrey, a Seattle-born American artist now residing in Paris, France, found her creative calling amidst the challenges of the modeling world. While venturing into modeling as a teenager, she grew disillusioned with the industry's superficiality and airbrushed imagery that didn't resonate with her values. As an antidote, she turned to self-portraiture, capturing her genuine self as a form of therapy and empowerment. Having dealt with depression throughout her life, Kimbra has consistently woven the significance of mental health awareness into her work. Her unique approach involves shooting exclusively on film, celebrating the inherent, unretouched beauty that arises from this medium. The imperfections inherent in film photography, far from flaws, become a source of allure in her work. Embracing a decade-long vegan lifestyle, Kimbra actively champions sustainability and ethical living. In a pivotal turn, her journey took a challenging twist when she was diagnosed with breast cancer in the summer of 2022. Currently, her artistic focus centre's on documenting the poignant journey of a young woman's healing process from cancer, adding a deeply personal dimension to her portfolio. Kimbra's artistic footprint extends across renowned platforms, with her work gracing the pages of Vogue Italia, i-D, and W Magazine. Through her unique visual storytelling, Kimbra Audrey continues to illuminate the complex interplay of self-discovery, health struggles, and the raw beauty that emerges from embracing one's authentic self.
You have experienced a tough few years with your health, how are you feeling now?
I have been feeling a lot better the past few months, but it’s been a pretty challenging past couple of years. I had been sick for a full year before my doctors discovered and diagnosed my breast cancer so in total I have been sick for nearly 2 years. I had surgeries for my cancer in October 2022 and the recovery was slower and longer than I was expecting but I’m finally getting my strength and energy back. It can be frustrating at times not having the same capabilities I had before getting sick, but I constantly remind myself that it hasn’t even been a full year since my surgeries and my body is still healing. I don’t think I will ever feel the same as I did before getting sick but I’m constantly getting stronger and still adjusting to this new body.
How do you think these challenges have changed you (if at all)?
I have definitely changed a lot in the past few years, not only physically but emotionally as well. Having issues with my health has made me more discerning with how I spend my time and who I spend my time with. I actually fell out with a lot of friends while I was sick, I had close friends not believe me before my diagnosis and not show up for me in any kind of reliable, consistent or supportive way which was really disappointing. Having an illness that isn’t immediately visible makes people quick to judge and jump to conclusions. However on the other side of that I became even closer with the people in my life who were able to support me. Being sick for a prolonged period of time shows you who your real friends are. So now I only put my energy into reciprocal relationships with emotionally intelligent people.
I have a lot more gratitude for little things in life, things I didn’t even think of as a privilege before getting sick, like using my arm for example. After my surgery I couldn’t use it at all for the first few weeks and then had months of physical therapy and I still don’t have the same strength and mobility I had before. I have also learned to never take my health for granted.
What brought you to Paris? What do you love about Paris?
I moved to Paris after living in NYC for 8 years. I moved there to model as a teenager and when I took a break from modeling I felt pretty exhausted from the city and wanted to live somewhere calmer and less expensive. I had been to Paris a few times before and it was my favorite city I had ever visited. There is so much beauty everywhere and it’s the place where I have felt the most inspired for my photography. I love the quality of life here as well, some of my favorite things are going to the farmers market, sitting at a cafe, or just taking a walk. It’s far from perfect though, there are many things I don’t like about Paris and being an expat brings on even more challenges, despite that I still love being here. There’s a slower pace and higher quality of life compared to NYC. I also love France as a country there are so many different areas I still hope to explore.
Do you miss America? If so, what do you miss?
There are definitely some aspects of America I miss, my friends are probably what I miss most. Being vegan isn’t the easiest here and while the options in France have greatly improved in the time I’ve lived here it’s still way behind compared to America. In any major city there I know I can find vegan options at most restaurants and that is sadly not the case here. I love going to health food stores when I visit the states, it’s normally my first stop. I also miss the diverse landscapes in America. My mom lives in California and when I visit her I love driving and going to different national parks to shoot, my favorites are Death Valley and Joshua Tree, there is so much beauty it’s really a photographers paradise.
What role does nature play in your life, and how does it inspire you?
I love being in nature. Growing up in Seattle I would spend my summers camping and horseback riding, I love being outdoors and with animals. Just being nature inspires me, walking around barefoot and breathing fresh air helps me feel grounded and recharge. Shooting in nature is a huge part of my work as well. I have had the privilege of shooting in a lot of different landscapes and love documenting and discovering new places as well. I find traveling extremely inspiring.
Where else do you draw inspiration from?
So many things, primarily from different aspects of my life, people and past experiences. My friends are a big inspiration to me, a lot of my friends are also artists and it’s always fun to collaborate with people you love and trust. Even a simple phone call with a friend can inspire me. My mom is inspiring she’s been battling breast cancer for the past several years and her strength is very admirable. Having helped her and watching her fight cancer made me feel more prepared and knowledgable when I was diagnosed.
I also have 13 pet snails, all found/rescued and they inspire me daily. I have become quiet the snail expert and watching them grow, eat, and build their shells is mesmerizing and endlessly inspiring. Movies, old photos, a piece of clothing, a flower, I try to always keep an open mind and be curious because I sometimes find inspiration in places I least expect it. I also love reading and music. I like to play the piano, I’m not trained and can’t read music but play for fun and like to learn and write songs. Sitting and doing something repetitive helps me relax and clear my mind.
Model or photographer, which came first? What drove the decision to combine the two?
I started modeling in high school and at the same time I was taking photography classes so they really started simultaneously. I learned black and white 35mm film photography in school, and mainly shot documentary, music and portrait photography when I first started. I didn’t start taking self-portraits until I moved to NYC and had been modeling for several years. It happened pretty organically, I started my self-portraits when I was feeling really depressed and unhappy with all the images of me. I wanted to create authentic, honest images of myself that I actually liked. In fashion modeling there is so much retouching, sometimes I wouldn’t even recognize myself which is why I do not edit my images. I also enjoy the entire process of self-portraiture, and shooting on film, it forces you to be present.
Could you describe your favorite "happy place" or a sanctuary that brings you peace and rejuvenation?
My apartment is my sanctuary. As I mentioned before I have pet snails and I lovingly refer to my home as the “Snail Sanctuary”. I have been in the same apartment the whole time I have lived in Paris and it feels the most like home of anywhere I have ever lived. I’m quite the homebody and I have the luxury of being able to shoot, develop and print all from home.
What rituals or self care practices do you embrace?
I practice yoga and meditate regularly. There are so many things in my daily life I find meditative like shooting, developing and printing film, feeding my snails, even playing the piano. There are also so many forms of self care I practice, going to therapy is big one, eating a healthy balanced diet, writing in my journal, and exercising. Besides yoga, I also play Ultimate Frisbee and have been competing in tournaments for over 20 years. Getting sick made me realize how important feeling strong in my own body is to me. Taking care of my body is a top priority and also includes things like, dry brushing, body oiling, acupuncture and lympathic drainage massage.
Beyond your work, what are you passionate about?
I’m really passionate about snails, Ultimate Frisbee and philanthropy, giving back to my community has always been a part of my life. I have been volunteering with numerous charities since I was a kid, most memorably building houses with Habitat for Humanity, working with animals at Best Friends Animal Society, and feeding the homeless with Lifelong Aids Alliance.
For my 30th birthday I did a fundraiser for The Trevor Project, the world’s largest suicide prevention organization for LGBTQ+ youth. For one week, I mailed prints to anyone who donated and raised over $10,000. LGBTQ+ youth are more than four times more likely to attempt suicide than their peers, and there are so many more statistics that are truly heartbreaking. As someone who has struggled with my own mental health it’s very important to me to raise awareness and help in anyway I can.
What was the last book that you read?
The Overstory by Richard Powers, it’s about trees and was a gift from a friend, I highly recommend it. I’m a pretty avid reader and primarily love non-fiction, my favorite book I’ve read so far this year is I’m Glad my mom Died by Jeanette McCurdy, contrary to the title it’s actually very funny and equally touching.
What are you grateful for?