Mimi Chambre

South West Graduate Photography Prize Winner 2016

University: Arts University Bournemouth

Graduation: 2016

Website: www.mimichambre.com

Artist Statement: I transform images of the natural world using a photograph as the starting point from which I create something new. I manipulate images into hybrids that lie somewhere between painting and photography. The images of minerals, waterfalls, stormy seas and planets you see in my work, though appearing real, are all creations derived from specific aspects of nature.

Prior to this series I had been working with photographs of clouds and transforming them into seascapes. Through this I became interested in images of storms, particularly lightning. The series of images that you see here, were originally photographs of lightning. I transformed them into, what I believe, resembles the bands of colour found in minerals such as agate.

I find it interesting how the viewer interprets the images.  Some believe they are what the title suggests and others see them as something completely different to what I intended. Ultimately I want to create something that is both bewildering and beautiful which could further reflect how we perceive the natural world around us. 

Images from the series Minerals

Images from the series Minerals

What initially encouraged you to study Photography at Arts University Bournemouth? Are there any standout moments from your university experience that come to mind? I did the Art Foundation at AUB and loved it so carrying on to do my BA there made perfect sense. I think what originally drew me to AUB was the community feel to the place – the campus is relatively small and quickly became like a second home. I think another thing that encouraged me was the fact that it’s a specialist university for the arts and as such you are surrounded by creative people. I think that was one of my favourite parts of the university experience - being able to work in a creative space everyday and share ideas and work with my peers.

One standout moment would probably be making the frames for my exhibition work in third year. I’m not a natural at woodwork but after putting so much work into the art itself, it only felt right to complete it by making the frames myself. It was tough and extremely time consuming but ultimately I made something that I am extremely proud of. The other stand out moment would be our graduate show. We spent most of third year fundraising for our show in London and to see it all come together and have our work on display to the public was really wonderful.

Can you tell us about Minerals? What’s the series about and how did the subject matter arise? My final year work was based around the manipulation of photographs of the natural world. Prior to Minerals I’d been manipulating photographs of clouds which led to my fascination with storms, particularly lightning. The objects in Minerals were originally photographs of lightning that I manipulated. I knew I wanted to use the photos of lightning in some way so I began experimenting with different tools in Photoshop. I didn’t really set out with a pre-established idea of what exactly I would make. It was only after I manipulated the image in a certain way that I noticed the resemblance to minerals such as agate. From there it became a matter of refining my process and experimenting with different images, colours and shapes. 

 
From the series Minerals

From the series Minerals

 

Is there a particular genre that you’d place your work into? I would probably say ‘fine art’ – I’m not sure I would call my work photography, more ‘lens based art’.

What are some common themes or subjects that run through your work? What equipment did you use to make this series? I suppose the main theme is nature and the manipulation of nature. To make Minerals I used a Macbook, Photoshop and occasionally a graphics tablet. The original images I used to create the work were taken from the Internet.

Who or what influenced you most when making Minerals? I used to collect rocks and minerals as a child so I feel like subconsciously that might have had something to do with it. When I started Minerals I’d just finished working on a graduate show fundraiser so I was desperate to get back to making and experimenting. I’d been fascinated with lightning for a while so I just started playing about with the images. In the past I’d been really good about overthinking my work so I tried to take a more free approach to making with Minerals. Once I established a process I began to look at pictures of different agates to get an idea of the different shapes and colours. For the work I had made prior to this my influences had included Jupiter’s red spot, Van Gogh’s paintings and turbulent flow which may have had some bearing on Minerals as well. 

Minerals installtion image

Minerals installtion image

Describe your experience of winning the South West Graduate Photography Prize 2016. What have you learnt? The South West Graduate Prize has been a really brilliant experience. I was happy to just be shortlisted and exhibiting my work, to win the prize was such a surprise. It’s been great to exhibit my work alongside talented artists from the South West. The exhibition in London was an amazing chance to get feedback and talk to different people about my work.

What exposure have you gained as a result of winning? Do you think this will benefit your future? In January I did an Instagram takeover with Fast Forward: Women In Photo which was a great opportunity to share the work I’d made during my final year of university. I’ll hopefully be doing another feature with them later in the year. Being able to exhibit with SWGPP has been great exposure – by mid 2017 Minerals will have been shown in London, Falmouth and Bristol. I think having these exhibitions under my belt will definitely be beneficial in the future.

 
From the series Minerals

From the series Minerals

 

You mention that you ‘transform images of the natural world using a photograph as the starting point’; can you tell us how you’ve made these images? All my work has been made using Photoshop in some way – I just experiment with the different tools until I find something that works.

What advice can you give to future graduates? One piece of advice I would give is to enter as many competitions as possible. I would also say to stay in contact with your friends from university and to keep making and sharing your work. 

Can you tell us about any future plans you might have? I'm about to start my residency with Knowle West Media Centre in Bristol and I'll be doing that for the next six months or so. I'm excited to throw myself into a new creative project. I've also applied to do a Masters in Photography this year.

The South West Graduate Prize exhibition will be on show in Bristol this summer. I'll also hopefully show the work I make during the residency in Spring 2018.