Kim Keever

Painting or Abstract Photography?

A two-year-old thought turned into reality when art photographer Kim Keever was searching for a way to create atmosphere in his tabletop landscape images. Having tried smoke and clear plastic, Kim’s eureka moment came when a friend was throwing out a 100 gallon aquarium. He decided to start experimenting with painted water and his unique approach proved to be a hit. 

Abstract 30690b

“I was a painter for a long, long time and eventually I got bored. I didn’t feel I could add anything more to the history of painting,” Kim lamented, explaining why he turned to photography.

“I actually thought about trying my technique for two years before actually going for it, but once I did, I thought ‘oh my god, it looks great!’ I love the randomness of it. That’s what is most pleasurable; it’s always a wonderful surprise. I choose the colours, but they go their own ways so I never know what the final picture is going to look like or what shapes will come out.”

Abstract 30066b

Kim admits that his process is an odd way to work, as with conventional art the artist or painter builds the image, while Kim simply waits to see what happens. His creations take on a life of their own once the paint enters the water and it’s one of the features of his art that he enjoys and draws most inspiration from.

“The tank, filled with water, almost becomes a painting machine. I pour the ingredients in and snap away,” Kim explains. “It’s simple, but it requires a lot of work.” As simplistic as he describes it, his work takes an immense amount of patience and meticulous attention to detail. Kim will shoot anything from 10 to 100 shots every time he fills the tank, and then looks through each 100-megapixel file, scanning for shapes and compositions that catch his eye. Kim often spends months working on the selected images from a single shoot and has taken over 35,000 shots with his current abstract series.

Abstract 27787

Inspired by the work of American photographer Cindy Sherman and her approach, Kim began experimenting with different takes on landscape photography. 

He chose to start shooting tabletop landscapes where the challenge is to create scenes with depth and scale, despite their miniature size. But Kim faced one challenge in particular. “I couldn’t get an atmosphere,” Kim recalled.

“It was a real problem. So at that point I began surrounding the tabletop with clear plastic, and I played with having a roof over the top of it. That helped because it allowed me to create a fog with smoke and so on, but eventually it seemed to make sense to try paint in water to solve the challenge of creating an atmosphere.”

Abstract 32220b

Abstract 32527c

The resulting evolution of that early technique that Kim stumbled across gave rise to his immensely captivating abstract project. “It was a real turning point in my life. At the time, a friend of mine was throwing out a 100 gallon aquarium, which was perfect,” Kim explained. He eventually moved onto a 200-gallon tank, which he uses now.

The second key turning point in Kim’s photography was switching from using 4x5 large format film to Hasselblad digital medium format. Investing in the digital system allowed Kim to continue creating large prints with the added benefits of a speedier workflow, fast flash sync and other advancements of Hasselblad digital medium format cameras.

Abstract 31137

I started my underwater photography in 1995, and at the time I was using a 4x5 camera. Then one day a friend of mine came over with a 50-megapixel Hasselblad H5D-50c and immediately I thought to myself ‘oh my god, I’ve gotta have it!’ I worked with that for five years or so, but then when the H6D-100c came out, well, I had to have that too. I really love it. The user interface is great. And of course, with all of those extra megapixels I can make much larger prints. The thing that drew me to the Hasselblad system initially was the speed, for one thing, versus 4x5. But also, being able to see the images on a high quality screen made it easier to judge what I was shooting and make adjustments more quickly.

Abstract 32841

Kim decided to invest in the H6D-100c, primarily because it offered him the option to deliver larger prints. However, capturing photos at up to 100-megapixels also gives Kim the opportunity to crop into his compositions significantly and still produce quality large prints from the cropped images.

“Some people aren’t willing to give anything digital a chance; as far as they’re concerned, they have to shoot film. But I’m looking at the big picture. What does the whole print look like? It’s irrelevant to me whether it looks like film or digital. It’s more important that the files look good. So for me it’s all about the efficiency of working."

Abstract 30780d

“I just can’t imagine returning to film, aside from the unbelievable cost. The amount of images I take would translate into an incredible amount of film expense.”

To create his stunning abstract images, Kim Keever works with a 6x2x21/2ft tank and shoots with the Hasselblad H6D-100c, partnered with the HC 3,5/50mm II and Omni lighting surrounding the setup.

See more of Kim's work here.



AORTA

Waiting Room

Swedish photo duo AORTA wanted to create a set of images that said something about the complexity of shaping an identity in the contemporary world and the paradox of choice. To illustrate this, the duo collaborated with sustainable Swedish fashion designer Helena Lundström, showing different phases of the subject trying to cut, measure and sow their way through the journey of figuring out who they are.

Read more

Chris Gunn

Documenting NASA’s Work on Planet Earth

Blending science and tech with an abstract touch, NASA contract photographer Chris Gunn has been the lead photographer on documenting the construction of the James Webb Space Telescope since 2009.

Read more

Douglas Kirkland

My Evening with Marilyn and the Day Victor Hasselblad Stopped Me in the Street

Douglas Kirkland shot some of the most sensual and unforgettable images of Marilyn Monroe ever taken with his Hasselblad 500C. It’s the stuff that legends are made of, but even before that, Douglas had a chance encounter with Victor Hasselblad himself.

Read more

Tobias Hägg

Above Stockholm

Capturing the cityscape of the Swedish capital during golden hour, Tobias Hägg's imagery takes us on a journey from above, between Swedish homes and golden-topped trees neatly woven together in combination with wide expanses of the city stretching all the way to the horizon.

Read more

YANAN LI

From China to Sweden with a Hasselblad

Yanan Li fell in love with analog Hasselblad cameras while studying at university in Beijing. Over 40 years later, Yanan finds himself working as the official photographer for Stiftelsen Silviahemmet – founded and chaired by Her Majesty Queen Silvia of Sweden – as well as for the Nobel Committee for The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for the Stockholm County.

Read more

John Alexander

Generations

Adventure photographer John Alexander travelled to one of the least densely populated regions on Earth – the western reaches of Mongolia – to trace the traditions that lay at the heart of Kazakh culture and to capture the characters that form the fabric of their community.

Read more

Gleeson Paulino

Bold Brazil

Brazilian photographer Gleeson Paulino invites viewers to see contemporary Brazil from a new eye. Provoking the senses through a sublime colour flow and exquisite image juxtapositions, Gleeson’s series explores the beauty of Brazil’s bold diversity, from its people to its landscapes.

Read more

Four Photographers Along the Ganges River

Off to India to follow the Kumbh Mela, a Hindu pilgrimage that attracts over 100 million people to central India to bathe in the Ganges River, Gabriel Flores, Joe Greer, Jeremy Snell, and Dan Tom set out to document this cultural journey through their unique perspectives and individual photography styles.

Read more