Featured: Photography Saved This Young Swiss Student from Life in a Lab

Photography Saved This Young Swiss Student from Life in a Lab

By Petrolicious Productions
April 22, 2014

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.

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8 days ago

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David Young
David Young(@david_young_1)
1 month ago

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Gary Stokley(@gary_stokley)
1 month ago

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Gary Stokley
Gary Stokley(@gary_stokley)
1 month ago

Wonderful story, I remembered my student days

Russ Seuffert
Russ Seuffert
7 years ago

Kim, you have a wonderful gift for expressing yourself photographically. A marvelous talent. I look forward to seeing your future work.

7 years ago

Kim’s work is wonderfully Beautiful! I love that old cars and the backdrops. Great work Kim and thank you for sharing.


Todd Cox
Todd Cox(@mc70)
7 years ago

I truly love this artwork/photography. It is whimsical and beautiful and a touch haunting. It is childhood, it is fairytale and it is the mundane rolled into one very visually stunning image; it is quite interesting how it stirs so many emotions and ideas simultaneously. These would make an excellent calendar, and would work exceptionally well in a children’s novel.

7 years ago
Reply to  Todd Cox

Hi Todd! Thank you for your kind comment! I have actually made Calendar’s for the traveling cars and am currently working on a book 🙂

Erik de Vries
Erik de Vries(@ermott)
7 years ago

Well, that’s cute and all…. But at least 50\% of the credit should go to the people who made the little car models.

7 years ago
Reply to  Erik de Vries

Hi Erik! Totally agree with you. I tried to get in touch with a place that I know produce them in Spain but they never got back to me 🙁 They are now so many different factories that produce those kind of cars that it would be hard to find THE one person doing them, but you’re right, 50\% (or even more) of the success of the photo is in choosing the right car! I find them easily wherever I travel and I’m planning on learning how to make them myself 😉

Dustin Rittle
Dustin Rittle(@mosler)
7 years ago

This is actually something very cool and i like it alot its a bit different then what over artist have been doing. I swear at first i almost didn’t think it was a toy 😀 until further inspection. My fave shot would have to be the yellow VW beetle going through what looks like a little stream. It just gives the beetle a sort of ruggedness about it hehe even for a toy

7 years ago
Reply to  Dustin Rittle

Hi Dustin!! Thanks so much for the kind feedback! This one is also my fav, and the car is my 3rd oldest, had it with me when I was living in Ireland so got some cool shots with it there!