Photography Saved This Young Swiss Student from Life in a Lab
Ms. Kim Leuenberger is a young Swiss photographer who is studying at the University of the Arts, London. She loves all things vintage and classic, “because they had a life and want to tell you their stories, and that’s what I want to transmit with my pictures, I want them to tell a story.” Additionally, she loves traveling, moving around, and discovering new places as well as adventure! Her project “Traveling Cars Adventure” began almost unintentionally and resulted in a career change.
Q: How did you first come up with the idea for this project?
A: I think it was about 3 or 4 years ago, I had just turned nineteen and received my own DSLR for my birthday. It was a sunny Sunday in Spring and I wanted to try it out properly, so I went in the garden with all the toys and decorations I could find in my room. The first picture of the series was one of a blue minivan and a paddington bear, I posted it on Instagram and the reaction was so great that I started taking the minivan everywhere with me to take pictures of it, then I started buying different models, a red Vespa in Tuscany, and shortly after a yellow Beetle in Catalunya!
Q: What’s your strategy for coming up with a good shot composition/story?
A: Well, it has changed over the years but if I want to take a photograph with my camera, I’ll mostly take it from the ground and with a really big aperture. I like to play with reflection and landscapes and to put the subject in a place where it could maybe still move but is kind of stuck too! Now, I started taking pictures of the traveling cars with my iPhone and as the aperture doesn’t give me the chance to have such a big blur, I go more for recognizable places and have it in a sense of motion.
Q: How big is your collection of your mini cars?
A: It has become huge. I don’t even know how many I have, they are spread all over my parents, friends, and family’s houses. I must have thirty-five of them, at least!
Q: Which car is your favorite of the collection and why?
A: Ahhh, that’s a hard question. I have favourite for each thing. For example for beach or water pictures it would be either my red or yellow minivan (which I recently lost, taken away by a wave while taking pictures, the water was freezing but I ran to get it back and had water up to my waist. The sea was too wild for me to see anything so I gave up and drove back home. I went to the shop where I usually buy them the next day and found the exact same one so I bought it!) Now for my London pictures I’m into my small Mini Cooper (red and blue) and for the travels I like my small Beetles and Vespa because they are light and fit easily in my bag! They’re too small for DSLR pictures, but perfect for iPhone!
Q: Are you interested in life-size vintage cars?
A: Oh yes! My mum had an old red Beetle and I drove it all summer long last year. It was a dream. And I also used to have a Vespa (a new one but in a retro style). I always wanted to own a vintage car, I like what’s old and has had a life! But now I live in London and I don’t need a car anymore!
Q: What models are your favorite and why?
A: I love Volkswagen hippie vans but I’d never drive one, looks too complicated to park it. I’d like a VW Beetle, convertible, just like my mum’s! If possible yellow or blue or red. I think it looks still quite feminine and I love its look and shape.
Q: Do you plan to continue the project? Where are you taking the cars next?
A: I’ve left it a bit on standby on the camera side (continued pretty actively with iPhone on Instagram) because I’ve been so busy with school and working as a commercial photographer. But the project is my baby and I’m sure going to carry on with it. I’m working on a book at the moment, a collection of pictures, an exhibition in London and I print them on canvas to be able to sell some more.
Q: How often do you travel and what are some of your favorite places you’ve been?
A: I’d tell you I don’t travel much but it’s a lie, it’s just that I would like to travel all the time. I come from Switzerland and live in London, so I am still exploring the UK, we have a house in Catalunya so it’s my second home and my favorite place to photograph traveling cars! I try to travel once a month, well discover a new place once a month, going abroad 5-6 times a year. It’s not easy now, money-wise, because I’m a student but I’m studying what I always dreamed of (photography), so it is okay.
Q: What is your favorite type of traveling or favorite way to travel?
A: I love a good train ride, or a road trip (I am planning one in Scotland with my father for August/September) but I also love traveling by airplane. Even if I’m the worst packer in the world.
Q: Do you take your whole collection with you when you travel or do you choose only one car before each place you visit?
A: Like I said, packing is always the most dreaded moment when I travel. It depends what I’m planning to do. I love traveling alone so then I would take one (or 2) big car and a few small ones. If I’m traveling with friends and family I know I won’t have as much time so only some small ones!
Q: How has this project changed or affected you?
A: I guess it helped me become more confident in my photographic skills. If it wasn’t for the traveling cars, I think I’d still be attending college for pharmacy in Basel and wouldn’t be studying photography at the University of the Arts, London today. It showed me that I was a creative person and that sitting in a lab all day wasn’t for me. Not only this project but photography in general helped me a lot when I was feeling lonely. My camera is one of my favorite company, I don’t feel alone with it.
To see more of her work, click here.