Recent winner of the Australian Photography Awards for 2019, Ilsa W. H. Kidd’s stunning work focuses on the beauty held in every precious moment. Inspired by art, people and the natural world her work is infused with feeling – the perfect balance between what we see with our eyes and our hearts. An incredible inspiration to me personally as our conversations centred around the intricate balance between creative work, family life and motherhood. Ilsa’s seamless integration of all three major facets is a contrast to our more routine based parenting style. And whilst that works perfectly for our family, I always admire witnessing the flow of bringing children so fully into every part of your life. Her two beautiful children were so gentle and playful, and so at ease with being in a new place surrounded by new people. They will indeed offer those calming qualities to the world as they grow, and what a gift that will be.
Can you share a little more about yourself, your upbringing, and background — what has been integral in becoming the woman you are today?
I had a wonderfully creative childhood, and a very happy and nurturing upbringing. I feel quite lucky with my tightknit family. My parents worked hard and creatively together- running businesses and projects. My sister and I were often ‘on set’ with one of their many shoots, or backstage at one of their events or shows, and we spent a lot of our after-school hours by their sides eating take-away dinner and getting out of our school uniform as we rolled into bed from the late arrival home. Some see this way of life one without routine or careful family-life balance, but for us (and in a way, now with my children and parenting style), we thrived on this worldly experience as part of our education of life, and sense of play and discovery. It certainly nurtured the creative within me.
We grew up in Queensland, a place that felt safe and familiar, but also somewhere that wouldn’t fulfil all my days or my dreams.
Always naturally drawn to storytelling, once I finished school I trained to be an Actor and worked in theatre mostly once I graduated. I spent some time in Sydney and in LA, when I finally landed in publishing, writing and assisting alongside my parents in a new time and place of our relationship, where we were three adults now with a common goal. I had always loved photography, growing up sneaking peeks through my father’s (also a professional photographer) collection of Black + White Magazine, among many other photographic books by the world’s best. I loved watching him work, and feel the electric energy unique to shooting (as there’s always an element of working in the moment and thinking on your feet). I was enchanted by the magic of developing film (we had a dark room at home), and craved the satisfaction of creating something my own that didn’t exist beforehand. My early years were all about exploring every interest I had really. Eventually, after a stint in filmmaking and education, I found my way professionally full time in photography. I’ve been as a rolling stone since, continually learning and forever inspired by the art and story in the visual.
For you, how and where does photography meet and intersect with conservation? How do you see the power of photography providing a space to say, to capture, to comment in a way other mediums don’t?
Our world is saturated in photographs, everywhere you look, so in that way I feel that’s what separates it from other art forms, and also proves the importance of storytelling and understanding through the visual medium.
Photography is a very personal space, as it’s an intimate medium, one that takes two for an expression to be articulated - the photographer (the eye) coming together with the subject (the focus) to create one voice. The nature of this allows preservation of our experiences, life, history, even just a simple but beautiful moment frozen in time, in many styles and interpretations.
Photographic art is a very powerful way to express meaning and ask questions. Documentary photography is all about giving insight to those absent, and creating lasting memories of a significant event or time. Fashion photography is a creative way to bring together boundless ideas, a world that many are drawn to and open to getting lost in. Portraiture can be the most truthful, an invitation into depth and a life that as a viewer is not yours. All these styles and many more are vehicles of conservation of time and thoughts, which is probably why I love photography so much, as a sentimental person seeking meaning and holding on to life’s beauty- even in the mundane.
What have been some recent sources of inspiration or personal connection for you?
A lot of my work in the past few years has been within the space of motherhood. Since becoming a mother I’ve had the pull to work with birth and document a lot of mothers and families. I always aim to bring a truth and artfulness to all of my work, to represent the heart within each story, and to find the beauty in life and people. I shoot true to my eye, the way I see things, and give every subject the chance to trust me enough to open up a little more for my camera in that moment. It’s extremely fulfilling to help others see themselves in a different light to usual, to show them their power and love. To me life is art, stories are art, they are history and are complex and beautiful, so no matter what I shoot the results have a unique flavour true to it’s subject’s inner world. Outside of motherhood and portraiture, I’ve been turning my eye to other people’s creations and lifting that work with the added layer of photographic interpretation. I’ve been working with brands and artists that align well with my ethos and photographic style, and lend themselves beautifully to collaboration. Finally, I love to create photographic art, to push something from its raw elements and transport it to something elevated- dreamlike or just heightened. This style is an area of work I’m currently sinking my teeth into, and I will always explore and create.
We’re lucky if we follow any sort of a linear path as creatives, but themes are often present. What ties together your past creative lives?
A very fitting question… I’ve had a long line of creative lives, across performance, writing, directing, film and of course photography, and the one thing that ties them together neatly is simply the love of storytelling. I have a big heart, I wear it on my sleeve, and I carry a huge capacity to empathise and a strong will to express. I will always find ways to understand this world and this life through exploration and creativity.
Is there a metaphor, a quote, a piece of writing, or visual composition that is speaking to you right now?
“The mediator of the head and the hands must be the heart” – from Fritz Lang’s silent film Metropolis (1927). This film has been closely analysed and explored in a music performance project I’ve been a part of for the last four years, and this line struck a chord. I find it fitting as an artist, but also as a mere mortal in these conflicted modern times. How relevant this message is, even now just shy a century from its debut.
Describe a moment in your last year that filled you with wonder?
The last year has been my biggest, most challenging year yet, so I can’t pinpoint just a moment, but instead through the harder times have gained greater clarity and perspective. To me, that experience alone opens me up to the state of wonder, allows me to see the delicacy of life and it’s beauty. This year I’ve become a little more patient, have had to let go of stale expectations and have pushed myself to learn my personal boundaries. Having children fills you with both wonder and worry, but the wonder always wins out. To feel true wonder, simply watch your child dreaming.
Tell us about a habit or personal self practice that serves you.
I love walking in nature- in any kind of weather. To reconnect to greater space, greenery, fresher air, ambient sounds, slowing my thoughts, calming my pulse. I always feel reset after tapping back into Mother Nature’s glory.
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