What happens when you spot an Instagram filled page with pastel goodness, pink LA vibes and palm trees? We automatically fall in <3 and start stalking the photographer creating these awesome shots! Not only does she capture gorgeous candy coloured skies, but she’s photographed at the White House, photographed Maria Sharapova, and worked on campaigns with huge names including Walt Disney and Mulberry to name a few. We caught up with super talented, Canadian born – LA made Kim Genevieve to talk careers, photography, dreams and meditation…
Debut: Hi Kim! For our readers who are learning about you for the first time, tell us a little bit about your background:
Kim: I’ve always had this wild daydream approach to life. I was already planning my getaway to Hollywood from the age of seven. I would watch a lot of Hollywood movies, and I just became obsessed with making Los Angeles a part of my life. I’ve always had big ideas and big plans for the future, and getting as close to the palm trees was one of them. That’s what’s lived inside of me since I was a little girl growing up in Ottawa, Canada.
And you did just that! you moved over from Canada to LA to pursue your dream, what made you choose LA? And how difficult was the decision to move?
The decision to move to LA was easy for me. It’s all I wanted since I was a little girl. It just took a lot of hard work to get here, but I knew more than anything else in the world, that this is where I was supposed to be. I don’t think I could’ve lived with myself had I not gone after my biggest dream.
Every job I took as a teenager and young adult was to get closer to my Hollywood dream. And let me tell you, there were A LOT of jobs! I delivered pizza flyers when I was 13. I worked part-time at a record store and a kid’s clothing store throughout high school. On weekends I worked at a travel agency. When I finally graduated high school, I worked as a receptionist for an all women’s fitness club, until finally, I received a full-time position delivering mail door-to-door for the post office. Ultimately, that was the job that enabled me to save enough money to move to California!
The hard part was all the paperwork that comes with moving to a new country. Also, having to deal with work visas, the fees for an immigration lawyer, the renewal process for the visas, and all the paperwork/signatures that come with it. None of that stuff is fun, and it can often feel like it takes away from the magic of the dream. But it’s a part of life – and the beautiful things we want in life rarely come easy, especially if we have big plans! It takes a lot of hard work, but I honestly would not trade any of the hard work because it’s made me into the strong and confident woman I am today.
How old were you when you discovered your love for photography:
Kim: I believe that I discovered my love for photography the first time I held a camera in my hands. I was so young at the time. I remember pulling a chair from the kitchen table and dragging it to the front closet of our house because I knew that’s where my dad kept the only camera in the entire house. It was on the top shelf of the closet, so I climbed up the chair and stood on my tippy toes so I could reach for the camera. There was an instant connection because as I got older, I don’t ever remember not having a camera with me at all times. I was always documenting the world around me.
“The trick is to get out of your head and out of your own way. If you can be present with your subjects and the people around you, it truly becomes something less technical and more about the way you communicate and see the world around you. I don’t think you can teach that sort of thing.”
Are you self-taught or did you go to college/university:
Yes, I’m mostly self-taught. I did take a lot of art classes in college and I studied photoshop for two semesters with the best teacher, Mr. Glover, who one day pulled me aside and asked if I’d ever considered a professional career in advertising photography. He was the first person in my life who saw potential in what I was creating. My time spent in Mr. Glover’s photoshop class helped me to develop my style, and his encouragement and pride for what I was creating gave me the confidence to pursue this thing professionally. As far as directing and shooting on set, that’s all self-taught, and I find that the more I do it, the more it just flows right out of me. The trick is to get out of your head and out of your own way. If you can be present with your subjects and the people around you, it truly becomes something less technical and more about the way you communicate and see the world around you. I don’t think you can teach that sort of thing.
You’ve worked on some amazing campaigns with some great brands, how did you work your way up to the point where you were considered a professional photographer?
That’s a great question! I don’t think there’s ever been a defining moment where I stopped and thought to myself, “Yes, I’m finally doing it!” Or “I’m finally seen as a professional photographer!” And I don’t think that will ever happen. I honestly believe I’ve been an underdog in this industry from the moment I first started, and the beauty of being underrated or being an underdog is that you will continuously be surprising the people around you, which I love!
What I’ve learned over the past five years of doing this is that you have to keep taking significant steps forward. It’s essential to have a bigger vision looking forward than the goal you’ve just achieved in front of you, or else you’ll get lost thinking you’ve somehow “made it!” But I don’t think we ever “make it.” I believe life is about both messy and exciting experiences. When one job comes along, it often opens the door to another one, then another one, and then it continues to grow like that.
In 2016, when I booked my first global campaign with Maria Sharapova, I think that moment made people pay attention a bit more to what I was doing. It felt great for a bit because I had worked so hard to get to this place, but more than anything, it was the fact that that job opened the door to more incredible opportunities and collaborations.
What has been the worst experience you’ve had on set?
There have been some uncomfortable situations on set. When I was first getting started, there was a lack of respect from some men, mostly the way they spoke to me or tried to overpower my decisions because I was a young woman in a predominantly male industry.
There have been big egos and false assumptions as to how I’m in the position that I’m in. I used to take it personally when I was new and just getting my foot in the door, but that’s because I hadn’t found my voice yet. I was still unsure of myself and my surroundings. Over time, I’ve found my voice and my confidence. And because of that, the right opportunities have made their way to me.
I’ve also learned that people often view situations the way they see themselves. It’s impossible to please everyone around you. If you don’t like me because I booked a job, then that’s for you to work through. I don’t let that stuff phase me anymore. It brushes off because I know I’m here to do my job. And not everyone is going to like me, and that’s okay. People will either love you, hate you, or not care at all. Those that don’t care, well, they just want to get the job done, and that’s cool with me!
“I believe we have to get very clear about the things we want in life and the dreams that live inside of us. I try my best to write everything down and talk about my goals with those that are closest to me”
What’s been the most fulfilling part of your career journey to date?
The people I get to meet and work with, they make this journey exciting! There have been career highlights that I never could’ve imagined when I was still living in Canada. Being commissioned to photograph Michelle Obama’s super diverse all-female staff at the White House was an absolute highlight. Just arriving at the White House for a photoshoot was a pinch-me moment! Working with Maria Sharapova is also something I’ll remember forever. I used to watch her compete when I was younger –– and to be directing her years later, in front of the camera, felt surreal! Also, meeting and working with some of my childhood idols, like Tiffany Thiessen, Tia Mowry, and Candace Cameron, that’s been so fun! I used to watch all their shows as a kid in Canada, so to be photographing them, I honestly could not have planned any of it. A dream can only take you so far, then the rest is truly meant to be!
How do you prepare for a shoot to make sure you’re ready to capture the best image?
Thankfully I work with the best assistants in Los Angeles. Some I’ve been working with for five years, and they feel more like family and friends than assistants. I could never take all the credit, especially when there’s a week-long job that will require a lot of equipment and a lot of prep and planning. Our assistants will often help us prep the gear, pick it up or have it delivered on set. On the bigger jobs, we have walk-throughs to confirm all the shot locations, so our shoot day runs smoothly. We also have a pre-production day where we get to discuss the vision in detail with the client and ask as many questions to ensure that the shoot days run very smoothly. This year, I’m all about meditating and exercising before a big production day. I find that it helps me clear my head before I do anything hyper-creative.
We looked at your Instagram and thought “WOW, we found someone who is just as obsessed with palm trees and pastels as much as we are!” How have you grown your following and used Instagram to help your career?
I was fortunate to get a boost early on. Instagram featured me on the “suggested user list” a couple of times. Since then, my Instagram following has grown organically for the most part. I try to post what I love most about Los Angeles and the moments that used to invade my dreams when I was growing up. I think the fact that I get to see the palm trees every single day is pretty special, and I want to hold onto that magic forever and continue to share that love with everyone else.
Looking back at when you started out, do you feel you’ve achieved everything you set out too?
Oh no! Not even close, haha! I feel like I am just getting started. I often feel like I haven’t accomplished anything yet. During the past five years, some of that time got wasted feeling like I needed to “prove” something to the world or maybe even to myself. So knowing I don’t have to prove anything feels incredibly freeing in a way as I can finally be more in line with my goals and aspirations. There’s just so much I still want to accomplish, and my list of goals and dreams keeps growing every day! All I want to do is create!
What do you think has enabled you to succeed as a photographer?
It’s always been about hard work in the direction of a bigger goal in front of me and taking it one day at a time. I believe we have to get very clear about the things we want in life and the dreams that live inside of us. I try my best to write everything down and talk about my goals with those that are closest to me. I don’t tell everyone, but I do share them with those that are just as big a dreamers as I am, so we can grow together and encourage one another when we’re working our way up. I love feedback from people that I trust and admire.
I also think it’s really important to hold onto the creativity that lives within because it’s the same creativity that’s been there since we were all little; it started somewhere! Most of what I do comes from that seven-year-old inside of me who just wanted to live in Hollywood so badly, and she just wanted to get close to the palm trees and the beautiful people I was always seeing in the movies. I still hold on to that as much as I can. It reminds me of how hard I’ve worked to get to this place, and it reminds me of where I come from every single day.
The Creative/Media industries are super competitive, how do you ensure you stay relevant?
Haha, I don’t! I try my best not to think of it as a competition. I compete against myself; more specifically, I compete against me from a year ago. I want to outdo her, not other people. I believe we should all be focusing on our own goals and dreams, and hopefully, we’re able to inspire other people along the way, but there’s no point in competing against people I don’t even know. We’re all on completely different journeys, so what would be the point? I try my best to let other people inspire and motivate me instead of ever trying to get ahead. We all need to understand that sometimes we’re up and on top of the world, and then other times, we’re down. It’s never going to be a full ride at the top. I mean, what would we ever learn if everything came so easy? I try to focus on moving forward, always, and I focus on my personal goals. So keep learning and keep growing every single day! That’s what it’s all about!
Other than photography, are there any other career paths you would’ve followed?
So many! I’m an all-around creative person. I’m very much interested in film and writing. So we’ll see where that takes me. I’m also launching a limited-edition Online Photo Gallery. So I’m excited to finally be able to put this dream out into the world and start a new chapter in my life. This gallery is really about my obsession with California, more specifically Los Angeles, and the dream that got me here in the first place. I’ll be launching that dream in April! It feels surreal to say that because I’ve been working on this idea for so long, and I can’t wait!!
What do you do when you’re not behind the camera?
Lately, I’ve been enjoying spending time on my own, just writing and listening to a lot of podcasts. I’m not sure where the writing is going to lead me to, but it’s what feels right at the moment. I used to love going out all the time and meeting friends for drinks, but lately, I’m so happy spending time creating, just working on personal projects, and just getting to know myself more than I did the day before. I know that sounds corny, but it’s true! I also love watching documentaries and A LOT of movies. My husband and I also spend quite a bit of time in Palm Springs with our close friends out there, so that’s always a great time! But more than anything, I’m just happy creating.
Finally, what’s the best thing about your job?
There are too many to name!! I honestly love that it’s not a typical Monday to Friday job. I love that I often get to choose who I want to bring on set with us. I get to pick the talent, wardrobe, the assistants, and the techs, and those people feel like family when we’re together. I love that the experience of being on set for three, four, sometimes five days or more can feel like a big creative party, especially when we’re working with clients that are so trusting of our vision. I love when the energy is positive, and we are all working on the same goal together, it can feel magnetic, and I love that this is just the beginning. There’s still so much to create and share with the world!
Interested in finding more about Kim? Follow her at : @kimgenevieve
Loved this interview? Tell us at: @Debutmagazineuk
Words by Lina Bastidas
The UK's first Career & Lifestyle Magazine for women in the Creative and Media industries.