Kim Von Coels

Kim Von Coels

Kim von Coels


My name is Kim von Coels (The Krumble Empire/ @krumblecreations) and I live in Glastonbury UK, although I spend a lot of time in Portugal and Germany with my family.

I do a variety of things for work, currently I am the manager of a soon to open art gallery in my town, I also sometimes work as an artist and photographer as well as lots of other random things.

My hobbies include getting creative, painting murals, spending time outdoors, travelling, photography in all its forms and helping out in my community.

How did you get started in light painting?

I played around with light painting when I was at university 15 years ago, but I was shooting mainly film at that time so it was a very expensive way of experimenting, I rediscovered it about 7 years ago when me and some friends were messing around in an old building called zigzag in my town and we revisited some ideas which got us very inspired. After that we played around regularly, it was quite a social thing, it often involved wine and nudity, or exploring locations and dressing up.

What drew me into light painting was the ability to create incredibly interesting lighting effects without expensive equipment. A lot of my early work was very subtle and atmospheric. Often I used just one or 2 torches (tungsten and LED, one warm light one cold light). I liked the simplicity of the kit. Altghough that has all changed a lot, now there are suitcases full of kit and bags and costumes and lighting stands and filters and god knows what.

Then after a couple of years I discovered light painting on the internet and it changed the way I worked drastically. Suddenly there was a million different things I wanted to try and that’s when I started connecting to other light painters around the world, learning from each other and diversifying my style.

What do you like most about lightpainting?  And least?

There is a very big social aspect to it, and a sense of adventure, I really enjoy getting creative with a group of people, and exploring new places – especially at night. Collaborating is awesome!

Im also very interested in clever intricate techniques. I like the idea that you can create another world or put several layers into an image without any  editing. When I started in photography I was shooting only film on an analog camera – I would develop my pictures in a darkroom, I liked the hands on aspect of it. Im not interested in working on a computer, I don’t edit my images, I rarely even adjust the balance. I don’t use photoshop, mainly out of laziness. For me that is a different skill, and a different technique –

I am interested in the actual process of photography and light painting is just an incredibly creative way of doing  photography, The possibilities are endless. I love discovering new ways of playing with light to create a picture – I think quite often people don’t understand the process used in creating an image so the end result and its beauty can be a little lost on them, again some of my favourite images are very subtle and what I sometimes don’t like about a lot of  lightpainting stuff is it’s a bit messy, or a bit much and often there is no attention to detail which bothers me, I think I can be a bit of a perfectionist.

I love how people are happy to share their techniques but I find it a bit sad that once someone else has learnt that technique they don’t go that bit further by making it their own and adding their own twist. And because of this lightpainting can get a bit samey…. 

What are you looking to say with your photography?

Im not sure what I’m trying to say. I’m a very visual person. The images I create are often just intended to be beautiful. Sometimes there is a bit of a story element and other times im trying to master clever, complicated techniques. Im not sure if I’m ever trying to ‘say’ anything. I really do this mainly for myself, and also for the models, to make them feel good – they are all normal people and its wonderful when you make them feel beautiful.

It’s a creative outlet, Im not trying to prove anything to anyone, I don’t expect to make money from it, I don’t need recognition, although it is very nice when people appreciate your work and are inspired by it. 

How do you tend to develop your projects?

Sometimes I have really detailed ideas and create a really exact plan of what I want to try, but mostly things just happen from experimenting and trying stuff out.
I have 2 main avenues in light painting – location stuff, which has a bit of a theatrical vibe , with costumes. and studio work which is about creating beautiful portraits, mainly fine art nudes. I rarely spend a lot of time preparing for an image – at most I may cut a stencil or find a good location or make a costume. Sometime I just have a new tool I want to try out. Mostly I have a vague idea about a technique I’d like to try and then just go for it and figure it out as I go along. Often I will shoot the same image set up 10 or 20 or 30 times before I’m truly happy with the picture.

Lightpainting has also led to some other experimental light based photo projects, the first being bath shoots or water portraits as I call them, where I submerge my subjects in a bath full with lights, milk and flowers or branches or other random things. Secondly, my projector series where we use a projector to project patterns and shapes onto a model against a backlit backdrop, and thirdly in camera multiple exposures where I shoot 3 layers onto the same roll of film to create these really awesome layered images with my analog camera. With these you never know what your going to get as you cannot see what your shooting until you have developed the roll so its pure serendipity and I love it!!
All these projects inspire each other and every aspect of my photography evolves because of it. 

  What has been your biggest photographic challenge or the photo which was hardest for you to achieve?

This is a hard question to answer because I have created such a variety of images in a variety of different styles and techniques. And also you rarely dive straight into something truly unknown or challenging without doing a kind of photographic warm up first.

You go through phases, one idea leads to another and you kind of learn things as you go. Also, I often have help. On location I work a lot with the light Painter Phill Fisher and in the studio I work with a guy called Dominic Bell, they both help me realize my ideas and it takes some of the difficulty out of it. 

The things that are challenging is when you have a lot of things happening in a picture that need to all be perfect. When you need to balance severeal different things and they all can vary in each exposure. For example if you are mixing lasers and Steel wool and stencils all in the same image with a model who also needs to be well lit.
Getting the stencil portraits right is always a challenge because i like to have everything aligned perfectly and i like each layer to show just the right amount, so its often a case of trying over and over again until you get it just right.  Stencils are by far my favourite technique that I have mastered.


The other image that can be difficult is when im lighting a location with a bunch of different colours from different angles and i want it to be symetrical and im walking around this big dark building counting my steps and making sure im in exactly the right spot before shining the torch.

Which photographers, light painters  or other artists have influenced you?  

There are many artists that have inspired me in my life, I am creative in a variety of ways, light painting is really just a small aspect of that. I studied photography and art in school all the way through to university and my mother was also very interested in it so she introduced me to interesting artists my whole life. I think I could fill a whole page with my inspirations so I will stick to light painting in particular.

Old skool photographers like Man Ray and Gjon Mili are important. Especially because they worked in the era of film, not digital. I liked how they thought outside the box, Man rays photograms (or rayographs) and the technique called solarizing where you turn the light on whilst your photo is in the developer and it makes this weird positive negative image. I like Gjon’s work with strobe lights and his study of movement. 

Once I found the world of light painting on the internet there were some stand out artists that influenced and inspired me in the early days. Patrick Rochon, Rosetta Whitehead, Pala Teth.
Then I met Phil Fisher and he has become a huge inspiration and good friend. I learn from him all the time. I also really  love the work of Mark O Neill, Mart Barras, Chris Thompson, Aurora Crowley, Eric Pare, Mass, Cisco, Reuben Wu, Hodaka Yamamoto (in camera analog multiple exposures), a chap called bob (@somethingreallywitty on insta) who works with projectors, Tim Gamble, Matthew Scherfenberg and many others who I can not think of right now.

Which 3 tools do you always take with you?

A camera, a tripod and a torch, of course.
Other favourites include stencils, black fiber optics and tubes.

Have you experienced any memorable  moment whilst doing light painting?

Oh god yes. Too many to be able to mention them all.
A night of wine, joints and nudity in a derelict warehouse that had a yurt built on the top floor with some of my best girl friends when I first got back into light painting. Wandering through the countryside, exploring forests (and other random places) under a full moon with Natasha. Rescueing an owl that had been hit by a car with Natasha in the most ridiculously extravagant dress in the middle of the road stopping traffic and getting tangled up in a bramble bush, and then still going light painting afterwards.

Drinking beer in a quarry with 10 of my good friends whilst Phill is lighting everything from above with a drone.

Spending the day in a cave with the boys from Aurora movement in the nature reserve behind my mums house before having to climb out and over a giant fence and back along a cliff in an extreme thunderstorm in the darkness carrying all our kit.

The whole weekend in Berlin for the first Lightpainters United trip hanging out at the studio with everyone shooting pictures of each other, sleeping in Mafu’s little flat and getting woken up at 9am after 2 hours sleep finding Mafu rolling the biggest breakfast joint, going to the Malzfabric (location heaven) and shooting all night with the nicest team. Driving to Belgium with Phil and the boys to hang out with Pala and some of the best light painters in the world in the most amazing locations – light painting day and night.


A 2 week road trip through morocco with my friend Dave to spend a week lightpainting in the desert with Cisco and a crew of 20 other amazing people, riding camels, eating tajine and hanging out in the sand dunes light painting, dancing, and doing shoots with ruben during the day, meeting monkeys and exploring ruins.
Doing a studio shoot completely naked to make the model feel more comfortable about being naked infront of me and my assistant. Climbing on top of diggers to spin steel wool, breaking into mines, nearly burning down my friends cabin with stray sparks, making little kids happy by turning them into butterflies.

Taking part in the photobooth at the photokina in Cologne, meeting my idols.
I could go on….

If you could only keep one photograph, which would it be and why?

I think if I could only keep one picture I would have to keep this photograph of Julia and Saffron from one of those first nights at the zigzag building. It was one of the photos that started me on this crazy journey. It was lit by me and Sophie, we had a torch each, an old tungsten one with a fading battery and a cheap LED one I’d bought for £1 earlier that day. We had enjoyed a really special evening with our friends. And it was all us. I had not seen anyone else’s work, my mind had not been tainted by everyone else’s ideas. It was pre my discovery of ‘light painting’ as I know it now and it represents a lot about what draws me to light painting. I love its simplicity, It is subtle and it is beautiful and it is a perfect example of how sometimes less is more.

What advice would you give to new light painters?

The most important thing is to try it out for yourself.

The best thing for learning is doing.

You can watch a million youtube videos, an artist can tell you all their secrets, but if you don’t actually just give it a go you will never get anywhere.

Mess around, make mistakes, have fun.

Don’t try and imitate other people, be inspired by all means, but make your work your own.

Try out different things, be inventive, use your imagination.

You don’t need to spend lots of money on expensive kit, play with what you have, get some fairy lights, stick a ping pong ball on a cheap torch. light a match. Use a sparkler.

And don’t compare yourself to other people, everyone has their own learning journey.

As long as you are having fun you are doing it right!

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