My first introduction to the stunning photography by Kim-Maru was through my interview with Rebecca Jones of Chateau de la Ruche. Kim has previously hosted her RAW & Gather Workshops at the Chateau, with another workshop coming this fall. Kim, who specializes in wedding and elopement photography, has traveled the world to document both intimate weddings and destination elopements.
One of the things that I love most Kim’s work is how every beautiful image tells a story. Kim’s work has been featured in Martha Stewart Weddings, Style Me Pretty, Cottage Hill Magazine and more, and in this interview she shares about when her love of travel and photography began, the benefits of using both film and digital formats and when she first decided to co-found RAW & Gather with Polina of Da Fiori Designs.
When did your love of photography and travel begin?
My love of travel is what first truly ignited my love of photography. I spent a year traveling around the world with my camera after completing an undergraduate degree (not in photography) and there was no going to back to ‘non-photographic’ life after that! Ever since then, I have been combining my love for both travel and photography in various ways including destination wedding photography (I specialize in elopements and intimate weddings worldwide) and international photography workshops and retreats.
What drew you to wedding photography in particular?
When my husband and I were getting married, we were searching for a (film) photographer who’s work really reflected our own love of a natural light-driven, documentary approach to wedding photography. That is, I was (and still am) so drawn to the beautiful way that film imagery in particular, makes me feel—a soulful, timeless feeling full of glorious light and authentic emotion—images that not only look beautiful, but also feel authentic. We struggled to find a photographer with this approach and decided right then, that we couldn’t be the only couple looking for this approach to wedding photography—and voila, my wedding work began the following year.
You’re based out of Vancouver, and travel the world for intimate weddings, elopements including destinations such as France, Germany, Iceland and the Caribbean. Which countries have been your favorite to visit for a destination elopement/wedding?
Yes, I have been lucky enough to have traveled to some stunning destinations worldwide with my clients (and for other, more personal photographic travel adventures!) but I can honestly say that my favourite locations for destination weddings are the ones that I haven’t yet been too! I’m a hopeless adventurer and I truly feel that there is no greater adventure than the start of a new life with your chosen one. A brand new and unknown destination in which to shoot for me, is like a beautiful metaphor for marriage—the start of something unknown, full of possibility and requiring a beautiful collective trust and effort between myself and my client to create a truly magical photographic experience together.
For your photography you primarily use natural light (which I love) and shoot in both film and digital formats. What are some of the factors that you that drew you to using both formats?
My first photographic love was film. When I started shooting professionally, there was no digital format and I held out, continuing to shoot only film for several years after the photographic world was shifting to digital format. Ultimately, I too made the switch of course, and now shoot in both film and digital formats, but I continue to shoot digitally in what has since become my signature ‘fine art film’ style of photography. I love the way film renders light but I shoot in both formats, depending on which approach or combination of approaches, best suits the lighting conditions of my subject matter and the feeling I am trying to capture in my subject. Like life, the best approach to a situation depends entirely on the situation so flexibility is key, I feel. As a result, I spend a lot of time lugging around camera gear in both formats when I travel!
Which cameras do you use for the majority of your photography?
For my film work, I shoot almost exclusively a medium format (Mamiya 645) camera and my lens of choice is the 80 mm for it’s dreamy, airy interpretation of my subject and beautiful depiction of natural light. In digital format, I am a Canon photographer, shooting primarily 35 mm with a vast array of lenses however, my absolute favourite lens in this format is one that mimics the look and feel of my film camera and lens choice—the 85 mm. If I were stuck on a desert island with only one lens, it would be that one!
What is the best part about being able to tell the love stories of your clients on their special day?
The story of honest and loving connection between people is, I believe, the story of our humanity. Connection between people is made up of a series of fleeting, poignant and intimate moments, some silent and small and almost imperceptible to the naked eye in real time, and some big and bold and overwhelming, but all are gone in the blink of an eye, in the ebb and flow of the natural rhythm of human emotion, never to be seen or experienced in exactly the same way again…unless there is a photograph. The blink of eye, frozen to relive again and again, simply by gazing into the image. Magic.
Do wedding clients often share ideas on a few of the pictures that they’d like to have captured, or do you just come up with your shot list as you go?
I encourage clients to share their dreams about the way they would wish their wedding images to make them FEEL rather than how they want them to look. That is, rather than provide me with a shot list (that typically only leads to a list of inauthentic poses throughout the wedding day), I ask them to give thought to the way they want their wedding images to make them feel about their wedding day on a day in the future, when they will look back at their wedding images and want to bring back the authentic events and feelings of the day as it actually unfolded. That generally results in a beautiful conversation about the sort of things I need to know to capture who my clients actually are on their wedding day, in the most elevated and artful way possible.
When did you first come up with the idea to found ‘RAW & Gather’ alongside Polina of Da Fiori Designs?
Polina and I met while working on a beautiful west coast inspired wedding editorial together. Both of us were traveling a lot for international weddings and events and feeling a bit of burn out at the level of intensity that can accompany the destination wedding industry. Longing for a ‘kinder, gentler’ approach to weddings, we realized a shared love of ‘slow living’ and a mutual love of a more ‘natural way of life’, a ‘less is more’ approach to designing and image making with intention, sustainability and seasonality as guiding principles, rather than the ‘more is more’ approach that can sometimes dominate in the wedding industry. That led to the creation of RAW and Gather, a slow-living, farm-to-table inspired, floral, food and photography retreat for wanderlust creatives like us.
The RAW & Gather Workshop has previously been hosted at Chateau de la Ruche (owned by Rebecca and Tim Jones) and you plan to host another workshop in October of this year. What do you enjoy the most about having workshops at Chateau de la Ruche and sharing your love of photography with attendees?
The story of the relationship Polina and I have with Chateau de la Ruche owners Rebecca and Tim is a wonderful one. I met Rebecca on IG when I accidentally and incorrectly, tagged their Chateau in a post I made about the destination photography workshop I was currently running in Paris, France at a different Chateau—not once, but twice (I have a love-hate relationship with autocorrect, particularly on IG!). Rebecca kindly messaged me to let me know about the mistake and after the second time I corrected it, we struck up a little conversation and realised, much to both of our surprise, that we share a love of slow living, florals, food and photography and that, lo and behold, their own little Chateau de la Ruche, was exactly what Polina and I were looking for as the host venue for our new RAW and Gather retreat concept in France. To this day, I have no explanation for why it was that IG autocorrected to tag Chateau de la Ruche (a Chateau I did not follow in my IG account and had no previous relationship with at the time) instead of the one I meant to tag (and did have a relationship with) however, our connection was immediate, and the rest is RAW and Gather retreat history!
Polina and I have adored everything about co-hosting our RAW and Gather retreat with Rebecca and Tim—the Chateau and property (peaceful picturesque rolling hills in the heart of the beautiful Loire Valley) is the ideal setting for our concept of foraged local blooms, seasonal food and glorious natural light in which to photograph all of our slow living adventures. Beautiful Chateau de la Ruche and gracious Rebecca and Tim are the perfect match for our RAW and Gather retreat concept and we couldn’t be happier to call them friends and co-hosts!
Your work has been featured in well known publications such as Martha Stewart Weddings, Style Me Pretty and Cottage Hill Magazine. What was it like seeing your photographs in the press for the first time?
Every time I see my work published, I feel a little thrill in my stomach but the first time my work was published in print, I cried. I felt the same way then than I did when I traveled to Morocco. I had dreamed of traveling to Morocco for my entire life, after reading about it in a children’s adventure book for the first time when I was a young girl and it’s exotic lure stayed with me from then on. When I finally travelled to Morocco many years later as an adult, I was overwhelmed with joy and gratitude because that moment represented the realization of a lifelong dream to me. And so it was with my first publication—the realization of a dream and tears of joy and gratitude.
What are your words of advice for those who are just beginning their journey in the world of photography?
Photograph EVERYTHING. I used to (and still do) get teased a lot by my friends and family for always having a camera in my hand and photographing everything and everyone around me. The fact is, that our grandmothers were right when they said: practice makes perfect. Over time, you will develop an appreciation for natural light and a relationship with your camera that will ultimately allow you to hone the skills necessary to capture the beauty you see through the lens. Light really is everything.
Visit Kim’s website and following along via Instagram @maruphotography @rawandgather
All images via Kim-Maru Photography