Maybe you’ve heard of Kimberly Douglas. But more likely, you’ve seen a photo of her—either covered in rose petals and lying in a huge blossoming flower, or surrounded by cascading glimmering streamers in a dress she made herself.
Early on, we’re forced to choose what thing we’ll fixate on. We all must have a “thing,” and worse, we need to be good at it before we even reach adulthood. But more and more, today’s young people are getting tired of choosing just one thing.
You could describe Douglas as a triple threat—an artist who follows her instincts rather than the rule of one. The L.A.-based model and photographer creates meticulous photos out of her parent’s spare bedroom, her obsession with creating self-portraits having stemmed from her need to experiment with both sides of the camera and the set dressing. “Why can’t I do all three?” she remembers asking.
At the end of 2018, Douglas decided to post a thread on Twitter highlighting the 75 shoots she’d done in the past year. Almost immediately, she went viral; that week her thread reached around 27,000 likes and her account hit 300,000 followers.
As her following grows and she continues to shoot every week, Douglas is learning a lot—from finding new poses to thinking up fresh concepts. At the end of the day, hat has continually caught her followers’ attention isn’t just her ability to create dynamic shoots featuring shadow play and costumery, but the fact that she shows what the process is like behind the scenes.
Adolescent Content: I just want to start off by asking—when did your interest in all of this begin?
Kimberly Douglas: Well, it started freshman year of high school, because I used to want to be a doctor and then I realized [I could never stomach] bones breaking or seeing blood. So the summer before my freshman year, I thought, oh maybe I could be a fashion designer—but I don’t like sewing. And then it went to fashion styling.
Adolescent: When did modeling come into the picture?
KD: I did a styling course my second year of college. During a shoot in L.A., I was styling a model and one of the styling assistants was like, “Go ahead and show the model what you want.” So I went back behind the camera and I was like, “Damn, I kinda wish I was the one modeling.” My cousin was in the industry at the time, so afterwards I asked her for a lot of tips. I took videos of myself and my mom took digitals of me, but I never got signed so I was like, maybe I just need to do more editorial stuff.
Adolescent: When did you start taking photos in your room?
KD: Right after I graduated college, because at the time I was trying to get into modeling. I was home one day and I was like, I want to take some cute photos today. They came out awful. And then I thought, well, maybe I’ll do an entire shoot. It literally came out of nowhere. So then I put on an old homecoming dress, taped my iPhone to the ceiling, set the timer for 10 seconds, and started taking photos. After that, I edited them and sent them to my friend. She was like, “Oh my god, this looks so good, who took it?” and I replied, “I did.”
Adolescent: What goes into each shoot? What does your process look like?
KD: I’ll plan it out and then I’ll order stuff if I need it. Once it comes, I’ll start building [the set]. Then, I have to figure out what to wear. Am I going to shoot it from above? From an angle? Straight on? What poses should I do?
Adolescent: What are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced with shooting?
KD: Being on a budget. I have to think, what can I use that isn’t too expensive? Like, [take my kaleidoscope shoot, for example.] I looked up how to make a kaleidoscope, and found that people use reflective cardstock—but I couldn’t find one big enough one to fit me inside, so that wouldn’t work. Then, I saw somebody use foil to do it, so I went to the store and bought some. But when I opened the foil, I realized it wasn’t reflective enough. When I got back home, I was walking in circles for like ten or fifteen minutes, and then I thought, wait, maybe I can use my parent’s closet door mirrors. So I ended up using those.
Adolescent: What was the most difficult one so far to do and why?
KD: Definitely that flower shoot—the one where I’m in the middle of the big rose petals. That was the most frustrating one I did year. It was super difficult. But the good thing was that it progressively got better once I set everything up. Part of it was that I made the flower too small. But then the day of the shoot came and I figured out that if I scrunched my body up really, tightly, I could make it work. It ended up actually being one of my favorite shoots.