KYM COX PHOTOGRAPHS BUBBLES IN THE NAME OF ART & SCIENCE
Kym is a hugely successful photographer in the world of science photography and has been shortlisted as this year’s Royal Photographic Society, Science Photographer of the year 2019!
Kym has always had a vested interest in science, we were given the wonderful opportunity to talk to Kym about her amazing collaboration between art & science, and how as a veteran exhibitor, she approaches exhibitions all over the UK.
RISE: From fingerprint expert to photographing bubbles – how did you make that transition?
I gave up Fingerprinting to raise a young family and to live overseas in Luanda, Angola and Baku, Azerbaijan. I established and taught digital photography classes in Baku. It was great fun, fabulous and a real hoot! Each 6-week course culminated with a group exhibition held in a local restaurant – this created a buzz from the beginning and something to work towards.
I loved teaching and decided that, when we returned to the UK for good, I’d get a degree and progress into GCSE + A Level Photography education. However, this path wasn’t so simple to achieve. The Arts University Bournemouth BA(Hons) Photography required me to complete the BTEC National Certificate of Photography (one year full-time). The BTEC course required A’/AS Level Photography.
I began photographing bubbles for one of the AS Photography units. I discovered soap bubbles and soap films are fascinating to work with, research and photograph. The more I researched (especially their relevance in many areas of research; physics, biology, mathematics, architecture, fashion + jewellery and, of course, as an established subject for symbolic representation in art and sculpture), the more hooked I became.
As an artist and photographer it’s important to talk about and place the work in an appropriate context. The work has to have relevance and meaning for an audience to a) understand it and b) to be able to relate to it.
I’m most fortunate with the a) aspect. Who hasn’t had experience with soap bubbles at some point in their life? That’ll be nobody. And, the b) aspect – for me that’ll be the science side of bubbles because that’s really, really interesting to me. It’s amazing what bubbles and films can do and how their research has lead to all sorts of everyday objects and processes that we have no idea about, especially in the materials sciences; aluminium, glass, plastics, fire-fighting foams, bullet proof vests, toothpaste. The list goes off into infinity. I really could talk for hours about the science!
RISE: Your interest between art and science is an interesting concept. How did you see that coloration and how did it develop?
My approach to photography, photographing and thinking has always been logical and practical, I’m a realist. Personality traits I had before entering fingerprints but reinforced throughout that career. But, I’m also creative in that I’ve always liked to plan, create and build things, that’s the creative side.
The BA (Hons) Photography taught me how to produce work by combining the art and science of bubbles in such a way for it to intrigue and compel the viewer to become interested.
RISE: Your series Grace is very beautiful. How did you come up with that concept?
Historical symbolism of bubbles in art, put simply, conveys the message of untimely or unexpected loss of something loved or cherished. Metaphors of bubbles bursting, (who knows where or when) is an idea we can all relate to.
For pretty much most of the 3-year BA (Hons) course I incorporated soap bubbles and films into the course units by trying to find relevance for each one. I conceptualised and developed the idea of creating a bubble solution whereby the bubbles blown wouldn’t burst like normal bubbles but slowly deflate over time, like a balloon. The solution I created worked very well indeed.
The new solution meant I could give the new bubbles a new meaning that was far removed from their historical art context. For me, the new meaning related them to memories because our memories will fade over time.
RISE: Am I right in understanding that the images are like a skeleton of a bubble?
Yep, you’re right. The bubbles for Grace didn’t burst, they deflated to leave membrane skeletons, that I then photographed.
RISE: There is something very beautiful about that Kym. What happens to the membranes?
As I said Grace bubbles don’t ‘pop’ like ordinary bubbles. Instead they slowly deflate – like a balloon over time. Once the bubbles have deflated they leave the solid membrane skeleton behind – which seems to last forever. Funnily enough Sam (my son) and I were looking through the Grace bubble collections, (not the photographs, the actual bubbles I made at the time – 4 years ago) only a couple of months ago and they were all still intact and as they were when I originally photographed them.
RISE: That’s incredible Kym!
Bubble are so delicate. How do you capture a bubble? What equipment do you use?
Ah-Ha! Now there’s a tricky question to answer because I don’t tell anyone how I photograph the bubbles, (although most proficient photographers could probably make an informed judgement).
I do create many types of solutions, some of which can take months to reach a good working consistency. Although, I will say I add liquid glycerine to prolong the bubbles’ life.
Re: equipment, (again I’m a bit cagey here too). I use the following brands: Arca B+W Elinchrom Gitzo Hedler Lee Filters Zeiss Lenses Mac and Eizo to run Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Lightroom
RISE: Your work has been exhibited throughout the UK for the last 10 years. What advice could you give to our members on exhibiting their own work?
There’s a stack of advice for exhibiting work, the list is pretty endless so I’ll just list the main attributes here OK:
Exhibit with another photographer(s)/artist(s)… halve/share the fun, costs and organisation needs.
Exhibiting can be expensive, don’t expect to make a profit or recoup the costs.
Come up with an appropriate name/title for your show, one that will encompass the work on display.
Distribute flyers a month before opening; local schools, colleges, Unis, Libraries, gyms notice boards, local radio, newspapers, circulars. Email all contacts and social media.
Make sure you have plenty of up-to-date business cards to hand out.
Info postcards about you, your work and the show always go down well.
How will a client pay for a piece? Cash, cheque, Paypal etc. Make sure your venue has a good internet connection to link payment devices.
There will be plenty of quiet moments. Always stand up to greet new visitors and introduce them to your work. The more engaged you are with your audience, the more likely you’ll sell work. Who wants to purchase from an artist just sitting there tapping their phone/reading a book?
Ensure your work will hang with the gallery hanging system. If not, how are you going to display it? Will the gallery allow you to use screws + raw plugs/nails. Do you have to make-good the walls after the show has ended.
Is your work ‘theft-proof’? You’d be surprised what will be stolen!!!
Ensure you’re showing clean, beautiful prints in mounts. If you’re not sure your prints are up to scratch, ask someone with more exhibition experience. Shoddy prints in badly constructed, grubby frames won’t sell.
Your audience will remember and tell their friends and family about a beautifully presented exhibition. They will also post a good review on social media. Bad news travels fast!!!
RISE: Kym – thank you so much, that is great to know and so much information to take in.
Where else can art and science lead?
To infinity + beyond (said Buzz). No, honestly because bubbles are relevant to so many varied areas of science I’ll just pick one and go with it. In fact, my next project will be interpreting and representing soap films and sound waves.
RISE: Will you continue to photograph bubbles or do you have other plans?
Nope, I have no intention of photographing something else in the foreseeable future. I’ll continue to work with bubbles until the time comes when I don’t get goosebumps or butterflies when I’m into a real good shoot or piece of research. For me, it’s all about gut instinct.
RISE: Since embarking on the art of capturing bubbles, which has been a massive success, what was it that made you want to push ahead for your qualification?
I have a need to work towards something, whether it be an exhibition or a qualification. To complete either proficiently and become successful means taking a good look at my work and photographic practice and to put it into context for the exhibition or qualification. All of it must be appropriate and relevant. No crappy prints (series or otherwise), shoddy workmanship, waffling on or trying to be someone/something I’m not.
I’m most fortunate when it comes to presenting my work because I learnt from the best – as a Fingerprint Expert I had to prepare statements and mount lifts and photographs for evidence in Court. The BA (Hons) Photography taught me how to essentially do the same but as a working photographer/artist.
RISE: Kym, it has been fascinating talking to you. Your talent and skill is just something else! We wish you the best of luck with the Royal Photographic Society and the photographer of the year! We are routing for you!
To learn more about Kym and her bubbles please do check out her website and social media platforms.