In the digital age, self-documentation is as routine as the day is long. For models, the industry encourages or even demands participation–oft depending on social media to secure bookings. So when model Laura Kampman introduced her quiet and vulnerable self-portraits, that in their own modest way, dissented the vanity of posting-culture, they didn’t go unnoticed. Kampman, as a model is most often glamorized for the sheer act of being, but the role reversal (though the passion for photography predates her career) presented the opportunity to lens her own perspective. Whether it’s taking introspective self-portraits or intimate images of fellow muses Marte Mei van Haaster, Freja Beha Erichsen and Maartje Verhoef, a visual voice was sowed. With the essentials at hand and a unique romance with the industry, Laura is these days more eager and inspired than ever to delve deeper into the craft. Models.com spoke to the model-artist on her creative journey and future aspirations.
Photography by Laura Kampman for Models.com
Were you interested in photography before modeling?
I’ve been taking photos since I was about thirteen. I just got accepted into art school when modeling crossed my path. I left to New York two weeks before I was supposed to start school, but I never came back…
What attracts you to the idea of a self-portrait?
It’s liberating to me that I can do the whole process by myself. I’m the photographer, the subject and decide on the developing. There are no other external influences, because of that I can create exactly what I’m aiming for. I like my photos to be sensitive, vulnerable. It’s harder to achieve that when I’m photographing someone else because that means that the person has to feel totally comfortable with me, and is able to fully open up in front of my camera. I can’t expect that from everyone.
Do you ever want to take a self-portrait where you create a persona for yourself that is not you? (similar to the characters we create when photographing others at times)
I prefer to shoot myself as who I am and what I feel in that moment. I already have to turn into different characters in front of the camera when I’m doing a modeling job. It feels very liberating to me to not have to be anything when I’m shooting myself. But of course I do have different sides inside me, like anyone. A feminine, a masculine, a insecure side etc. I’m able to tune into these when I’m taking self-portraits and that creates a difference in the portraits.
How about photographing others–does the dynamic feel different when you’re photographing others as opposed to yourself as a model? Do you feel your role change when you’re behind the camera?
It’s two different worlds. When I’m photographing myself I can be quiet in a room for hours. It’s more of a spiritual experience, I turn my mind off and just let my intuition move my psychical body and take the photos. Sometimes I don’t even know what photos I’ve exactly taken after I finished. It’s always a surprise when I get the roll back. When I’m shooting other people I have to be present, I have to communicate and be aware of myself to make the other person feel comfortable and find the right moment.
Where do you project your photography work is going? What do you wish do achieve with it in the next few years?
As I’m lucky to make my income with modeling I don’t feel the pressure to have to push my photography. All I wish for is just to keep on taking photos and being able to understand them more and more. They teach me a lot about myself. Besides that I’m open and excited for any project that crosses my path. Could be a book, magazine, exhibition, trip to Iceland, my grandma’s 80th birthday party?
Your shooting all on film now–what’s the next step in developing/furthering your process?
I just got to learn how to print my photos in the darkroom. I’m looking forward to keep on practicing that.
I imagine you’ve picked up some tricks while being on different sets? But also realized what the type of work you like and dislike doing…
Working with different photographers has been my own art school. I’ve learned a lot about lighting, angles, cameras, how to treat and not treat someone in front of your camera. I feel very lucky to have all these experiences; they’ve helped me to find out in a very short period of time of what and how I wanna take photos.
Does fashion interest you at all, in terms of integrating it into your shooting?
I’m always interested in exploring new things, so yes! It will be a new challenge. Might be horrible, might be wonderful like the Queen of England.
What about subjects, what gives you the desire to shoot a subject?
Mostly they’ve been models…which makes sense.
It’s mostly been models because that’s what I’m most familiar with, I’m lucky to have made beautiful friends over the years. They are already at ease in front of the camera and that makes creating something with them comfortable for me. Lately I’ve been willing to shoot more subjects that aren’t models, shoot beauties that aren’t necessary the ‘definition of beauty’ in our society.
Who are some photographers (or anyone for that matter) that influence you?
I did one of my first editorials with Paolo Roversi, the way he takes photos always stayed with me and kept on inspiring me over the years. I love the cameras he uses and the sensibility in his photos. The way Steven Meisel let me just be totally me in front of the camera, he was just directing on little moments that he saw happening. That has inspired me in how to find the moments with my subject. I’ve never worked with Tim Walker but the way he creates whole universes is amazing to me (hi, Tim, hi, if you need anyone let me know). A few photographers outside of fashion who inspire me are Harry Gruyaert, Hellen van Meene, Francesca Woodman, William Eggleston, Henri Cartier-Bresson… I can keep on going the list is endless.
See more of her work here